Ben Gurion Airport

Anyone traveling to Israel hears stories about prolonged searches. If you expect them on arrival, you may think you have had it lucky, breezing through the process.

But it is on departure that such extensive searches are typical. I discovered that having a jar of date preserves will get you sent into a separate line, and the jar placed in a box of its own marked “Fragile.”

You may think that from there on it will be smooth sailing. But next there will be a long line to check your boarding documents, then another long and slow line to check you and your hand luggage.

At that point, I was asked to turn on my iPad, and they actually skimmed my folders to see what sorts of things I had on there, and asked me about one with the name “Arabic,” although they only asked whether I speak Arabic, and did not prolong the procedure when I answered that I am learning it.

Passport control was relatively smooth and quick after all that.

If you travel to Israel, I would not leave less than 3 hours at the absolute minimum between getting to the airport and your departing flight, and recommend leaving even more time than that.

I understand the need for security, but the process can be enough to ensure that you don’t leave with too much euphoria that you may have accumulated during your stay. :-)

I should add that all the security staff I dealt with were all cheerful and didn’t seem to have any interest in prolonging processes or delaying me unnecessarily.

So what advice can I offer? Don’t buy jarred liquid souvenirs, pack in such a way that you can open your bag without difficulty or embarrassment, leave lots of time, wear comfortable shoes, remain cheerful, and perhaps have a book handy to pass the time if you bore easily and are comfortable reading standing up.

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Virtual Walking Tour of Old Jerusalem
  • Anonymous

    Your photos were very nice and very interesting to me. I was in Palestine myself in 1989. Some things have changed when it comes to the modern buildings. The Dead Sea is evaporating and not being fed like it used to. Do you have any pictures of that? There was only a short walk to the Sea from the roadside park when I was there. Now I hear it’s a long long walk.

  • James F. McGrath

    Hi John. The beach where we went to float didn’t seem like it had witnessed significant change in water height, but since I don’t know how old or recent the site/paths are, I have no way of judging. There certainly were signs elsewhere of varying water levels, but again, I don’t know whether those were along a consistent trajectory or fluctuations.

  • Gary

    Don’t know about the Dead Sea water level, but I stopped at a place to have lunch on the south end of the Sea of Galilee back in 1999. There was a dock there, high and dry, that was a couple hundred feet away from the water line. I was told that the irrigation draw-off had lowered the water levels greatly. So I assume that Israel has the same pressures of limited water resources that much of the world has, because of increased irrigation of field crops, and population explosion. The fish we had was good, but I have the feeling that it was shipped in, and not Sea-of-Galilee fresh.