September 19, 2008
Getting to and from Israel from Seattle is non-trivial – both in time and overall travel effort. I came in on Tuesday night, through Paris, on Air France (I left midday Monday from Seattle).
To leave I was departing from Tel Aviv at 5am, on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, then on NWA to Seattle, which should get in mid-afternoon the same day (Friday).
I had heard epic stories about security at airports in Israel. I had asked a bunch of folks in the office how long to get to the airport before the flight – the general consensus was between two and three hours. Even traveling business class – even at 5am.
There is a bit of a shortcut though – if you are “hosted” by a large company or organization, they can “vouch” for you, and security gets a little easier. Yesterday I filled out the forms, and they were sent in to the airport security office. What got sent back was this:
- My Security Ticket
The key thing wasn’t the piece of paper, but it was the security authorization number, and the fact that they had all my info in their central database.
For my 5am flight, I left the hotel at 230am (love that jet lag!), and got to the airport at just about three.
The trip to the airport was fun though – at that time of the night/morning, Tel Aviv is a hopping city. Maybe we just drove through the club area, but every block seemed to have a collection of young, well dressed (very well dressed) party-goers – both inside and outside of clubs. I’ve been to a lot of cities, and I have to say, this was the *most* busy that I’ve seen a place so late at night.
Outside of the airport, there is what appears to be a tollboth – with a long line of cars. It turns out that its not. It’s a security checkpoint. The car pulls up, the guard asks the driver questions, then opened the back door to ask me questions. He started in Hebrew, and I had no idea what he was saying. After a couple tries he said in English “Is everything ok?” I said “Yes”, and he waved us through. There were guards with machine guns right on the other side of this barrier. (Sorry, no pictures, I’m not crazy!)
When you pull up to the terminal, you get into a line to go to the checkin counter – before you can go to the counter, there are very nice security people who ask *a lot* of questions. These were the people who I gave my paper to, and who then entered the data, and came back to talk to me – why were you here? where did you stay? who do you work for? whats your title? who did you meet with? And, this was *with* the card! The guy in front of me worked for some medical device company and had prototype devices that were fabbed in Israel. He was still there long after I left and checked in.
There were no fewer than four more checkpoints to go through before going to the gate. I’ve written about the Bee Watcher Watchers in Paris, where there are multiple lines to go through, each with some perfunctory check. This is not the case here – every line had some purpose, and they were checking and rechecking to make sure that you were okey dokey.
One thing I was surprised by though – at the xray machine, you do not need to pull out your small baggie of liquids or take off your shoes. They scan you, and your stuff, right there.
I will have to admit that I was a little concerned with all the extra checking of me and my passport, at some point someone would notice the “M” gender on my passport. This wasn’t the case, and it never came up.
I felt pretty safe as we were taking off from Tel Aviv that the folks on the plane were well vetted.
I’ll be happy to be home in a few hours….