Ahh, the famed Israeli security. Highly regarded and the role model for many of the world’s travel hubs. But also mightily intimidating when experiencing it for the first time!
Let’s face it, security at most borders across the globe has become more stringent in recent times. Just a sign of the times and the way it is, unfortunately. However, in Israel the security is just that bit more intense and thorough.
And the questions they barrage you with at any of the access points into Israel (when boarding for flights AND arriving at Ben Gurion airport, as well as the three Jordan-Israel border crossings, at King Allenby Bridge, Sheikh Hussein and Wadi Arava, and the Taba crossing into Egypt) are asked for a very good reason: to keep Israelis and visitors to Israel safe (yes, Israel is safe to visit!).
Unfortunately, that strict adherence to security can also appear at times rude and arrogant and leave a less than shining first impression (Tim Marshall from Sky News had a recent run-in with apathetic staff, and Bollywood star Aftab Shivdasani was also put through the grill regarding his visits to Gulf countries). But most times immigration personnel are friendly and courteous, so if you run across a “bad one”, don’t let that mar your experience of the Holy Land.
First up, if you have a Muslim-sounding name, or have visas from Islamic countries in your passport, you are likely to face a tough round of questioning. You were probably already aware of that though…
Single men traveling alone can also attract a lot of questions but if you have a partner with you the questioning should be less intensive. Couples are treated as being less “suspicious” than lone male travelers (or groups of males).
If you have traveled to Israel recently on a previous occasion, you may be asked why you’ve chosen to return so soon. The more often you go to Israel, the more suspicious you may seem to officials, so you may be questioned for a longer period on frequent trips.
You will almost certainly be asked for the details of where you plan to stay. If you’re heading for a hotel or hostel, you may need to show your booking confirmation. And if you’re heading to a friend’s or family, you may be required to provide the life-story of the friend/family in question!
Some of the questions may also appear totally irrelevant, such as “What school did you go to?”, and they may be asked repeatedly by different personnel. But the aim here is to see if you’re consistent with your story and aren’t stumbling or fluffing answers. Your body language will also be carefully scrutinized.
And just so you know, when leaving Israel that barrage of questioning may also occur once again…add an extra hour to your check-in time if you’re worried about not having time to check out the duty-free shops…
Be honest, be honest, be honest! If you’re a genuine tourist, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.
And stay cool – those immigration guys are only doing their job!