Is Airport Security in Israel Really Tough for Travelers?

Given the level of tension in the region, it will be no surprise that security at Israel's airports is stringent.

Flying over the Israeli coast in an approach to Ben Gurion Airport, Israel Photo © Getty Images/PhotoStock-Israel

Arriving by aircraft you will notice a couple of security guards waiting when you go up the escalators from your flight – if you act suspicious they will not hesitate to stop you. But if you dress nicely, seem a part of another group or a family they are less likely to bother you.

If you are stopped for questioning, having the telephone number of friends or colleagues in Israel who can vouch for you always helps the process, and if traveling as part of a group, security will usually question you separately before cross-checking your accounts.

Be aware that passengers who have recently visited Arabic countries (except Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Qatar) may be subject to further questioning.

Bag inspection, both by machine and hand, is routine and should be expected, in addition to repeated interviews about what you intend to do while traveling in Israel.

Tel Aviv airport security

Ben Gurion International Airport, the country's largest in Tel Aviv, is also one of the world's most secure airports.

All cars, taxis, buses and trucks go through a preliminary security checkpoint before entering the airport compound.

Armed guards spot-check the vehicles by looking into cars, taxis and buses, exchanging a few words with the driver and passengers.

Armed security personnel stationed at the terminal entrances keep a close watch on those who enter the buildings.

If someone arouses their suspicion or looks nervous, they may strike up a conversation to further assess the person's intent.

Plainclothes armed personnel patrol the area outside the building, and hidden surveillance cameras operate at all times.

Email inspections by Israeli airport security

Security checks may not stop at your luggage. Since mid-2012, immigration and security officials have asked certain inbound visitors to open their email accounts or Facebook pages to be inspected. Several Palestinian-Americans and known Palestinian sympathizers have been subjected to this new type of search, and have been refused entry to Israel.

Read the details of their cases in this report.

According to the report, Israeli officials admit they use ethnic profiling, calling it a 'necessary evil' to maintain security.

This means intending visitors of Arab or Indian descent, or those known to have publicly supported the Palestinian cause will be specifically targeted for this type of interrogation.

Will I be targeted when arriving in Israel?

If you have a history of publicly supporting the Palestinian cause, or have publicly advocated sanctions against Israel, then the Israeli authorities will probably know about it and you may very likely be interrogated in this way.

If you have not publicly supported the Palestinian cause and are genuinely visiting Israel and the West Bank for a vacation, BUT are Islamic, of Arab or Indian descent, or have an Arabic or Indian name, you still may be asked to open your email and social media accounts.

It doesn't matter that you are not carrying a computer with you, the security agent will ask you to log-in on one of theirs.

You may be asked if you feel more Arab than American (or British or whatever nationality you are). Think carefully about your answer.

It doesn't sound fair or 'right', but for the time being it's a reality.

Airport departure security in Israel

When leaving the country, you must arrive at the terminal at least three hours before your flight, as Israeli security procedures can be time-consuming.

Departing passengers are personally questioned by security agents even before arriving at the check-in desk.

This interview can last as little as a minute, or as long as an hour if a passenger is selected for additional screening.

Luggage and body searches may be conducted.

After the search, bags are placed through an X-ray machine before passengers proceed to the check-in counters.

Occasionally, if security has assessed a person as a low risk, they will pass them straight through to the check-in desks, bypassing the main x-ray machines.

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  • john said

    never had a problem, they ask basic questions but not more than i have been asked coming back to the usa? maybe i was seen as low risk. not a big deal for most i would think,..none asked if i was jewish or not.

  • Jeffrey Mogil said

    My girlfriend is very consern und worried when she heard about problems entering Israel for people from Ukraine.Please,give me full details about it.Thank you very much.All the best.

  • Beverly said

    I must say that Tel Aviv apt,I have more than excellent experience and professionality in the field of aviation, is secure and the staff are trained to handle all situations may appear.

    Unfurtately I live in Europe and I fly about approx.5 to 7 a month, I do not feel at all safe with European apts.

    The situation is out control.

    Best Rgds


    +39 348 7595167.

  • Mario said

    I also had recently a very bad experience at ben gurion airport when flying out.
    I can understand the frustration but the words written by this piece of shit ioannis koumpanakis above are inexcusable. You deserve the worse from life and hopefully you will get it.

  • JanVBK said

    We went to Tel Aviv 2 years ago, on holiday. We are Belgians, and not Jewish. Caucasian type... The border control getting in was nothing extraordinary: a friendly girl asked some random (?) questions, we got our visum and away we went for 10 days Israël. The return control was tighter: longer queues, more questions but in fact nothing "threathening" nor unfriendly. Just strict. It was clear around us that some people are more targeted than others. But, be reasonable: isn't this somehow normal? Everywhere around the globe, custom officers are trained to do profiling. Sometimes they are right, sometimes wrong. But they can't gamble, they just run procdures, often adapted to certain international tension. Get used to it, accept this and most of all: don't start blaiming or offending them. That's the fastest way to get expelled.

  • Raz said

    I was about to book a flight to Tel Aviv, but had an intuition to check other people's experiences with security at the airport, because I'd heard some horror stories, although I thought the people who told me, might have been anti-Israelis, but from what I've seen in these posts, they were under-stating how bad it is.

    Thank god for the internet.

    Having to line up for three hours just to catch a 4 hour flight is ludicrous, not to mention the invasive questioning and asking people to open their email addresses, WTF is that all about, it's an abuse of power if you ask me, it smells of thuggish behaviour. I'm going to Italy instead, much more civil.

  • DrTeeth said

    Security is tight...just how I want it more my and my family's safety. I have been stopped by security forces when entering Israel and I am grateful for their vigilance.

    If people do not like it, they can go elsewhere and be more at risk from a nutter's bomb.

  • Abbott Cloe said

    What is the name of the airport security Unit in Ben Gurion International Airport?where do they detain a suspect ???

  • Noelle X said

    The middle east is generally fighting. That is not the norm for the most of the rest of the world. Security elsewhere is at a level appropriate for their own needs.

    A lifestyle requiring stringent security may lose perspective on what peace is like elsewhere, that peace truly exists elsewhere to a much greater extent. The other places do not want the fight lifestyle exported to them. I am glad a choice to not fight exists in so many other places.

    I would like to visit Israel soon as a regular tourist, to enjoy learning more as much as I have in all the other places I've gone on vacation.

  • Dana said

    I think you have to take into account the security situation Israel faces every day. Literally there are hundreds of attempts at terror attacks, every single day. They are a country surrounded by enemies. The security there has to be tighter because the risks they face are so much greater. While the Israeli approach may seem strange to tourists, it is carried out professionally and courteously. The method they employ is based on behavior analysis techniques. They are looking for information from you in the form of answering the questions they ask, but mostly they (and more importantly those watching and listening from cameras) are analyzing your behavior. So this is why the process, in large part takes so long and why they keep you guessing by being largely evasive and why they ask questions in a certain way, multiple times, because they want to see how you react over a period time, because if you are planning something, your adrenaline will be pumping, and your behavior will more than likely change and they want to be able to recognize that.

    If you're patient and relaxed and just answer the questions they ask which are, for the most part pretty standard (like where do you live, what will/did you do in Israel, who did you see, did you pack your suitcase, etc.), 99% of the time, you will go through without any problem whatsoever.

    It can be more difficult and you can face delays, including more intensive searches or questioning in any of the following situations:

    -You have passport stamps from countries hostile to Israel in your passport.
    -You live in a country hostile to Israel (think Muslim ruled country).
    -You plan on or have been in the Palestinian territories.
    -You publicly support organizations which call Israel's existence into question or support boycotts against the State of Israel.
    -You react angrily or defensively to the first round of questioning.


  • Liadan Nicola said

    I disembarked the plane, handed a card with a zero on it. I was in early pregnancy, my breasts were huge. A man came over. I pointed out my luggage. I thought ‘How nice. He’s helping me with my luggage.’. I was taken to a room with windows and the door left open. I was told to disrobe. I was shocked. I asked for female security guards to search me. They refused.
    Security guards kept walking past, making comments and laughing at me. There were five men in the room and they all laughed, stuck their hands in me. Groped and pinched my breasts.. I was humiliated and crying. They kept laughing and making hand gestures about my breasts.
    I’ve been raped before. This was a far worse and longer experience.
    I am not the first woman tourist treated this way, I wasn’t the last. My friend couldn’t bring herself to talk about the abuse she suffered. She just cried and cried.
    There have been recent articles about other women treated like this. Google them.

  • ex-security personal said

    Liadan Nicola, i very much doubt that it happend. all physical checks on women preformed by female staff.
    i have been working at ben gurion for about 6 years, never have i witness or preformed a physical check on a female.
    if it did hapeen, complain via the israeli airport authoroty website, i can assure you that if it did happen it probebly documaned (if you understand what i mean). but i am pretty much sure you are making this up. so i will finish with that - i hope your tormented soul will find peace and you heal mentally

  • stefan said

    I want to ask about my experience. If anybody had the same feeling.
    Coming into the interview room in Tel-Aviv Airport, I felt like I was scanned by some technology, maybe for lie detection? Or detect nerves? I know that these things exist, but did anyone else actually feel this?
    I realized when they questioned me that they had access to security/police records abroad too.

  • Mia said

    I came yesterday form tel aviv. The worst experience of my life. They keep me and my frined 4 h for security control. They also make us x-ray violating human rights. The funny story was that our other friend passed from another line carrying 2 big bottles of water.
    Shame on you Israel I came with all pleasure visiting this country because my grandparents keep for 9 month a family of 4 jews in their house and didn’t surrender them to the Germans during the second world war and you treat me as a criminal.
    Shame on you.
    I recommend to every one don’t visit this country. Isn’t worth it.

  • KJ said

    I left Israel two days ago. I was asked several questions full of biases. One of the security officers had a fixed image of what constitutes American. I would even call it a racist mindset centers on the white American. I was led to a separate inspection area without being told why I am singled out. No one there was wearing a mask amid a pandemic. What an irony to see that no observance of social distancing among the security guards while they take temperature of those who come into the airport? One female security worker touchrd my body without asking my consent. It was the most humiliating and insulting experience. I will never visit Israel again and I will tell every sing person I know not to go to that country that totally lacks morality and human rights.

  • Debbie said

    Outside the state's borders, people think is the only democracy in the middle east. Sadly, their behavior or lack thereof truly is disgusting. They are 40 years behind the times when it comes to showing RESPECT towards women who are not born Jewish and others who are of Palestinian ethnicity & other Africans(non Jewish). The laws are not unified and equal to EVERYHUMAN BEING. My generation will not be giving their hard earned money to Israel anymore. They don't deserve it. They steal, they pimp out girls from Eastrn Europe, they stole all the belongings from three bags two of which were complete id tags on them. The men come here & are nothing but trouble. Some of women got caught here in financial fraud schemes in NY. They arrested a huge PIMP &Sex predator from Israel who was operating a underage sex brothel in Honduras or Columbus..INTERPOL caught him and extradited him back to Israel. We have some real paradise in our community.

  • Josh said

    So not sure what you meant by "Indian descent" in your article? Indian sounding names like Ramesh or Kumar or Ravi? Dude.. I'm sure you meant muslim sounding names because majority of Indians are Hindus and Israelis have no problems with hindus infact a lot of Israelis go backpacking across India and are more familiar with India and Indians than most other countries. Get your facts right.

  • Richard said

    Israeli people, are not biased as Americans, with their hypocritical political correctness, with false respect to gays and black people, they tend to speak what they think, therefore it sometimes seems rather blunt and intrusive, the same concerning security. Sometimes they strike conversations just to talk to pretty girls, to diversify their boring security duties.

  • DISGUSTED said

    My Christian Israeli spouse just got inspected by their crazy disreputable security of perverts. Who get their jollies with strip searches and fondling Arab Israeli CITIZENS. Like pedophiles do children. Victimizing and getting aroused in the name of national security!

    The fondler clubs -> Israeli Airport Security located at Pervert central.

  • Zuhair Hallak said

    I hold Israeli permanent residence in Jerusalem,Israel. I have clean criminal record in Israel but I still go through double security at airport Ben Guiron because Im American Arab. Im was born in Jerusalem Israel and I do not posses Israeli passport because I don’t speak Hebrew. My native language is English but I only speak Arabic. 61 is for Arab ethnicity and does not matter if you posses American passport. Other Tourist do not go through double security unless his Arab descent. Israel only defines all Arabs as terrorist.

    I have clean criminal record and I’m not political activist.

  • Hope said

    This is no fun but they really have to check anyone suspect. My Indian friend (not Muslim, Sikh) was questioned both upon entering and while leaving the country. They called his Israeli friend and verified details with her, but required no further checks. Same for a Spanish guy who visited there. This is annoying, to be sure, but not really horrible.
    to put this into perspective, my friend of Iraqi descent (meaning, also having a middle eastern appearance) is always questioned in the US, even though he has the nationality of a western country. They may not call this profiling but it obviously is. So...

  • Tourist to Israel said

    Israel needs strong security, too many crazy people try to go to Israel and have bad intentions! If you don't have bad intentions you'll go through security. If you're questioned there's a reason for it. Israel has many security threats, just face it. Don't take it personally.

  • Ryan said

    I had zero problems entering Israel. Maybe it was my years in the US Army and I’m just used to other military people. It was straightforward, I dressed like I was going to a job interview, so I got off the plane, phoned my girlfriend told her I landed. I stood politely in line, I allowed an elderly couple to go ahead of me. I had my passport along with my drivers license in hand. I also had my girlfriend’s name, address and phone number, as well as the hotel’s number and address, along with my confirmation number, on another piece of paper. I walked up, handed it all to the gentleman behind the desk. He looked at all of it. Then asked me why I was there. I gave straightforward answers. “to see my GF, yes this was my first trip to Israel, I’ll be staying one night in Tel Aviv, then going to her place in Haifa, I will be here for two weeks”. He looked me up and down. Gave me my visitors card. No problem. He said thank you for having everything ready for him without asking. When it was time to go. I arrived four hours ahead of my departure time. I made it through the first part of security. Grabbed a cuppa coffee. Went to my gate. Stood in the exit interview line, I stayed polite and friendly to those around me. I watched a gentleman who was agitated and being rude with security, get a very hard third-degree, questioning, he was taken to another room probably because of the way he was acting. I was the next person in line, the security guard was definitely frustrated. I walked up politely said hello my name is Ryan, how are you? His mood instantly changed. He asked me where I had been in Israel. And just like upon entry, I showed him the receipt from the hotel, I stayed at in Tel Aviv. Then I showed him the piece of paper with my girlfriends information. He asked where I lived, I said America. He asked what I did for a job. I told him. He asked how long I have been at my job. I told him a few years. He asked if I went anywhere near Gaza, I said no. He asked if I felt bad for the Palestinians. I said I feel bad for anybody that is having a hardships or is poor. I then told him, that I believe Israel has every right to defend itself by any means necessary. He smiled at me and said he understood. He asked how my girlfriend was. I said very well and showed him a picture of her and i together. He said she’s very beautiful and I was lucky. I said I agreed. He said please have a safe journey. I said thank you and have a safe day. And that was my entire journey to and from the airport. Dress nice, have all available information on hand and in your hand. Look them in the eye, give straightforward answers. Do not give vague answers. Do not be looking around, when talking to somebody. Those men and women, the ones you can see and the ones you cannot see, do not play games or have the patience for your meltdowns. If you act stupid, you will win a stupid prize. Best advice, pretend like you’re trying to get into a strangers house, by talking your way in. Be open and honest, and to the point.

  • Jeronimo said

    Just recently visited in May'23 for the second time (the first trip was in 2012). I'm of SE Asian heritage travelling on British passport. The arrival security on both trips were easy, but the departure one was on another level!

    Personally I don't really mind the lengthy questions and thorough interrogation, but what bugs me the most is when they go through "every single item" in my bag! Understandably they are trying to swab for explosive and perhaps drugs substance. As I usually travel with a carry-on only, you can imagine that my bag is packed to the brim with every personal item in it. To go through such experience of seeing them remove your "well packed" bag, then they wouldn't even help with re-packing, is just very frustrating and annoying. In one hand I know it's a security thing for a good cause, but to experience it first hand (despite mentally prepared for it) I just couldn't help getting frustrated & irritated & upset about it.

    So, I simply promise myself to never ever set foot back in that country again. At the end of the day, it's not such a wonderful place to keep going back anyway, unless you're a religious person who's spiritually connected.

  • Tim said

    Does anyone have experience with exiting the country at Ben Gurion airport having visited the West Bank during your stay in Israel?

    I am a U.S. citizen with a U.S. passport. I will be visiting in a few weeks and am a photography enthusiast and I have worked in media and broadcasting for many years. I plan on having my camera and some lenses, and I always have an audio recorder and microphone to gather interviews with interesting people that I meet on my travels for use in podcasts, etc.

    I'm not worried about having this gear with me if I stay within Israel, but I very much want to visit the West Bank. I'm wondering if I will have a difficult time with the screening if I tell them I was in the West Bank and have equipement with me like a camera and microphone.

    Thank you!

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