Leaving plenty of time to make it to the airport after a lazy start I walked to the Sherut (shared taxi) rank where I enquired about going to Tel Aviv airport, minibuses to Tel Aviv were common but nobody else was travelling to the airport. In the end I bartered for a price which was considerably cheaper than the price I had managed to get for the airport to my hostel when I arrived, it also meant it used up all my remaining Shekels.
I was at the airport 4 and a half hours before my flight was due and as I had checked in online already I only needed to pick up my boarding passes (I was flying Tel Aviv – Frankfurt – London) before going through security as I only had hand luggage. However it wasn’t that simple.
As a British passport holder (and plenty of other nationalities) you had to go to a separate security desk to be asked questions about your stay, certainly nothing unusual about that. At the desk I was asked about what I had been doing and more importantly (to the security guard at least) what had I been doing in Lebanon, Turkey and bizarrely Malaysia as I had a 3 and a half year old stamp from there in my passport. I answered honestly that I had visited a friend in Beirut and had been there just 1 night, I had stashed in Turkey for 6 hours and not left the airport and I had spent just 30 minutes in Malaysia as I was just going over the border to extend my Thailand visa (I don’t count Malaysia as a country I have visited). I doing know what I said wrong but the security guard felt he had to get his supervisor, who in turn asked many of the same questions about what I had been doing as well as what I did back home. I produced my student ID and exp!aimed what I was studying and also said I worked to pay for the trip,being vague about what my job actually was. At one point she asked if I had anything to hide as I looked nervous which of course I was as i had been questioned for 45 minutes by now and still not got anywhere other than my passport and boarding passes being taken off me. Yet again my answers clearly weren’t up to scratch as she felt the need to get the head of airport security who was at least more friendly than the previous two but I felt as if my string of half truths might come ravelling apart as he questioned Jonny’s job and how come I didn’t stay at his house, how long had no known him (I replied he was a family friend, better than replying I had met him for the first time in Beirut), why had I travelled alone to Israel and how had I paid for it. After 15 more minutes of intense questioning I was lead to the security scanners where I had too take my shoes (flip flops) off, the contents of my bag was emptied (my 75ml toothpaste was taken away as it was too large) and I was taken to a changing room and searched (thankfully no invasive searching though). Finally after half an hour of searching and questions I was allowed to repack my bag which had been strewn across 5 trays and each item had been swabbed for drugs/explosives. Eventually I had everything back in order and wandered away from the security with a slight sigh of relief although in was expecting to be called back any moment.
I wasn’t until I was sat on the plane 3 hours later, on the runway, when the engines started to roar and the plane pulled forward that I relaxed knowing I was on my way home and not on my way to some prison for being a spy. It was experience which will always tar my memory of Israel and even if the overwhelming crowds, virtually everywhere in the country, hadn’t put me off returning then the treatment I received at the airport and the hatred they showed towards Palestine and Lebanon have certainly put the country at the bottom of my to-go list.