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Joseph: I’m heading to Israel soon!
Israel has a special place in my heart. It was the spot of my first international trip, and it’s probably my favorite place on earth. So when WOW Air published a 50% off sale a few months ago, I jumped on a round-trip ticket from Chicago to Tel Aviv for $251.
My latest visit to Israel was 6 years ago. The last memory I have of the country was one of the most hectic (and self-inflicted) travel experiences of my life: Airport security.
Sprinting Past the Strictest Airport Security on Earth
Endless tragic news stories paint a picture of justified paranoia for every resident of the little country.
It seems like EVERYONE in Jerusalem has a gun. Formations of Israeli soldiers with automatic weapons jog around the city. Men at the park play basketball with a handgun on their hip. Entering a restaurant takes a little longer, as everyone ahead of you is checking their guns at the door.
And the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv has perhaps the tightest security measures of any airport in the world.
Many airports recommend arriving ~3 hours before your international flight. That is ludicrous to me, I’ve never done that and I never will. Unless I’m flying out of Tel Aviv.
On the evening before my flight home, I was staying at a hostel in downtown Jerusalem. I was not tired, and was still trying to turn my mind off at 4:00 am. I was excited for my week-long stopover in Dublin the next day.
I decided to reach into my backpack and double-check my flight times. To my horror, I realized I had egregiously misread my itinerary. I thought I departed at 6:30 pm, but it was actually 6:30 am. I was meant to depart in 2.5 hours, and I was 1.5 hours away from the airport.
I bolted out of my room, tumbling toward the front desk like a puppy sliding into a stove in a hardwood kitchen. I asked for the receptionist to call a cab, and ran back to my room and shoved all my dirty clothes into my suitcase.
I paid an exorbitant amount of money for the ~1.5 hour drive to the airport.
I arrived at the airport 45 minutes before my flight. And the security line was almost out the door. A man walked up and down the line, inquiring about everyone’s departing flight.
When I told him mine, he grabbed my suitcase and walked me to a table where a woman began rifling through my belongings. The 3 of us were mortified by the organization and pungency of my bag.
He took me to a back room and ordered me to disrobe down to my socks and undies. He took my shoes and disappeared for a couple minutes behind another door. He returned my shoes, I got dressed, returned to my bag, and was given some kind of security pass.
My memory is still a little hazy, but I’m telling you the agent said something to the effect of, “I’ve pre-cleared you for all the security checkpoints. You have 5 minutes to make it to the plane. If anyone asks you to stop, just keep running.”
Having experienced the remarkably cautious Israeli mindset over the past few weeks, juking armed security officers seemed like a REALLY REALLY BAD idea to me. But I had no problems, and performed an Indiana Jones dive into the fuselage as the door was shutting.
After misreading my travel itinerary, I arrived just 45 minutes before my flight out of an airport with perhaps the tightest security in the world, Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Running serpentine to my gate with my hands in a surrender pose, I made my flight with no time to spare. It was nothing short of miraculous.
What’s the craziest airport story you have?