Is Airport Security in Israel Really That Tough?

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.

Get a travel insurance quote for Israel

You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.


  • 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. [email protected]

  • 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.

Add a Comment