The Complete Guide to Airport Security in Israel
If you’re visiting Israel, the chances are you’ll be arriving by plane - whilst the country shares land borders with Jordan and Egypt (and it’s easy to cross over) and cruise ships often dock at Haifa, most tourists will fly into Ben Gurion Airport, close to Tel Aviv and just a thirty-minute train ride from Jerusalem.
We’re often asked how strict airport security in Israel is and what things are good to know in advance, to make your trip that much easier. And working on the basis that to be forewarned is to be forearmed, we think that once you have an idea of the questions and techniques that staff use as you head towards your destination, you won’t feel as worried.
Israeli Airport Security
Israeli airport security has a reputation for being some of the best in the world, and that reputation is entirely justified. It’s incredibly good and takes advantage of the most up-to-date technology on the market. All airport personnel go through rigorous training before working with the public, where they learn different techniques when questioning travelers and how to spot anything odd from a distance.
Welcome to Ben Gurion Airport!
It’s all designed to keep you safe from start to finish- from the moment you arrive at the airport (via bus, train, private car or taxi) up until the minute you board your plane. In fact, much of the security is ‘invisible’ which means that whilst you won’t see it, it’s operating constantly, all around you.
Questioning by Israeli Airport Security
This is taken very seriously by airport personnel and everyone- a work traveler, a tourist, or a citizen- is subject to it. Questions might include why you were visiting Israel, if you have friends or family in the country and if you visited any ‘hotspots’ in the West Bank, which is an area where trouble can sometimes flare up.
It’s a good idea to be prepared for this and if you have been staying with friends or family, be ready to provide security with their contact details. (Occasionally, they will verify them). For sure, it will be easier to pass the questioning process if you’ve been staying with locals/family or traveling around Israel with an organized tour, but there’s no need to worry if you’re a backpacker or solo traveler- you just might be questioned a little longer.
Security officer at the Ben Gurion Airport
You will be asked if you packed your bags if someone gave you anything to carry on the plane (as a gift), if your bags were in your possession the entire time from them being locked until now, and if you are carrying anything sharp (nail scissors and swiss army knives, for instance). You may also be questioned if you have visited other countries in the Middle East with whom Israel does not have a good relationship (e,g, Lebanon, Yemen).
Overall, however, as long as you are calm, and have nothing to hide, it should be a quick and painless process. Try to relax - no one is out to ‘trap you’- the staff are just doing their job and, anyway, it’s all to keep you safe.
Your hand luggage will then be screened using very advanced machinery. You also might have to take off your shoes and remove your laptop from its case. The queues are usually not too long and then you’ll be free to shop, grab a coffee, or charge up your laptop and smartphone.
How long does it take to pass through Israeli Airport Security?
It’s hard to say precisely but you should allow a good three hours before your flight is due to depart. In the summer and at other popular times of the year (the holidays of Passover and Sukkot, and at Christmas in Israel), thousands of people will be using the airport daily, so queues can quickly form.
However, because of the up-to-date technology and well-trained staff, you won’t be stuck in a line too long but, in general, it's good to err on the side of caution.
Is it safe to fly to and visit Tel Aviv?
We’re happy to tell you that flying into Tel Aviv and visiting the city is very safe. Sure, Israel has occasional ‘flare-ups’ and conflicts with its regional neighborhoods, but Tel Aviv as a city is extremely safe. The city welcomes all kinds of visitors each year - young and old, backpackers, independent travelers, and groups, and few people don't fall in love with the city; many of them explore it using Tel Aviv guided tours to save time.
Tel Aviv from above
Tel Aviv itself is flat, so easy to walk around- it has a fabulous boardwalk where you can stroll for hours, along fine beaches. not to mention bike lanes which make taking a cycling tour of the city a great idea. It’s easy to walk from the Namal port (near HaYarkon Park) in the north of Tel Aviv, all the way to Jaffa, and it will take you a little more than an hour.
Tel Aviv’s also very safe to walk around at night- it’s very common to see people sitting in cafes at 1 am, walking their dogs at 3 am and returning home from nightclubs as the dawn breaks. Compared to most European and North American cities, crime against the person is incredibly low. And Israelis love to help- so if you ever find yourself in a tight spot, the chances are someone will be there to aid you.
Airports in Israel
There are two airports in Israel- Ben Gurion (which is 25 km from Tel Aviv) and Ilan Ramon (18 km from Eilat).
Ben Gurion International Airport is Israel’s gateway to the rest of the world, with hundreds of flights taking off and arriving each day. It has two terminals, both well-equipped with eateries, cafes, and duty-free stores, and a free shuttle bus that runs between the two (taking about 15 minutes), should you need to transfer.
It’s also well-connected by train (easily reachable from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Haifa in the north and Be’er Sheva in the south). You can also reach this airport with the 445 bus that runs from the north of Tel Aviv, along the promenade and beachfront, then onto the highway.
Taking off from the Ben Gurion Airport
Ilan Ramon airport, in the south of Israel, is where tourists fly if they want to holiday in the south of Israel or visit Petra and Wadi Rum (an easy trip from the southern border with Jordan).
Just a twenty-minute drive from the attractions of Eilat - a resort city nestled on Israel’s Red Sea, it’s easily accessible either by public bus number 30 which leaves from the city’s public bus station, every 20-30 minutes. Alternatively, you can take a taxi, which should cost you around 80-100 NIS depending on how many passengers and luggage. Eventually, there will even be a rail link so tourists can take the train directly to Eilat.
Ilan Ramon Airport has just one terminal but already handles around 2 million passengers a year, and this will probably grow with time. For now, there’s everything you need.
If you plan on visiting Israel, keep in mind that while this is a small country, it still holds troves of culture, history, nature, culinary surprises, and activities to discover. Choosing privately guided tours in Israel could save you lots of time, and help you make the most of your visit.