When I arrived at Tel Aviv airport (which is actually a few minutes outside the city), I was dreading a potentially long clearance for immigration and customs. Much to my surprise, the admission was only a couple of minutes longer than an average passport check, with a few questions being asked about where I will be visiting. As I found out later, exiting the airport involves a much more rigorous procedure. My flight was scheduled to depart Tel Aviv at 23:30 so the queues in the airport were short. Waiting in queues takes up far more time than the actual procedures themselves.

Before check-in, there was a pre-queue where the representative simply guided people toward another queue. Then, I was asked several questions by a trained young lady who eventually puts a yellow sticker on my passport. This sticker determines the level of investigation I merit in the next phase, after I check in at the airline counter behind her. From what I have read, the level of security risk is assigned a number from 1 to 6. I was given a 5, probably based on factors including: traveling alone; young age; not having Israeli family or friends; and having visited several countries (Indonesia, Morocco, Istanbul, West Bank). She actually did not ask me if I had visited Palestine during my trip, but I would have lied to save myself more rigmarole. I have been told that even having evidence of having flown on the flagship carriers of Arab countries could trigger suspicion, as people have been questioned for having stickers of Emirates or Etihad Airways.

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The first letter of Israel security sticker is a “5,” which means I am an above average security risk.

 

 

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One is given a blue entry visa and a pink exit permit. The visa is given on this separate card and not stamped in your passport since everyone realizes how obnoxious it is to travel with evidence of having visited Israel.

 

My checked bag is thoroughly scanned and hand-searched. Recently, the procedure has changed so that the passenger does not view this phase, although I would not have minded to guard against theft or misplacement. I proceeded into an area, in which they individually scanned everything remotely electronic, including all my adapters and chargers. I was given a thorough pat-down and scan, but the entire procedure from start-to-finish took less than an hour, mostly because there were no queues. I have read that one could wait in line for 30 minutes in each line, but I did not have to deal with it. The total screening was pleasantly quick. People are advised to arrive at TLV well ahead of time. For my 23:30 flight, I arrived at 19:30. I am someone who likes to cut it close so this was much in advance for me.

On the 13-hour TLV-PHL leg of my trip to my next destination, The Bahamas, I watched two films, Boyhood and Snowpiercer. I usually check the live flight path a few times. I noticed that the map labeled with bodies of water and countries but also the location of the 1912 Titanic disaster! Why stop there. Why not continue with the locations of all major airplane crashes?

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2015-01-04 21.57.35 I spent time in the Dan Lounge, which is mediocre. It does not have showers, but it has complimentary snacks, cheap wine, and soft drinks.

 

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I have Global Entry status, but upon arrival in Philadelphia, I got this giant “X” on my printout. There was a taped paper note by the kiosk indicating to go to a certain passport booth if you got an “X,” which made me think it was common. It extended my processing by a few minutes.

 

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Tel Aviv airport has duty-free stories selling Dead Sea beauty products. I did not tour the Dead Sea, but you can buy this stuff on Amazon. The prices at TLV were absurdly high. I spent $10 on two slices of Pizza Hut pizza, getting rid of all my shekels.


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