Strip-searched and interrogated in an Israeli airport.
My trip to Israel came to an end, and I was flying back home from Ovda Airport (VDA).
Although it’s true that I didn’t spend much time in Israel during this trip, I chose the cheapest flight I could find which was to Ovda/Eilat, as a convenient gateway to Jordan’s major attractions (Wadi Rum, Petra & The Red Sea). Therefore, I spent one day in Eilat and then crossed to Aqaba, Jordan. After amazing 3 days in Jordan, we went straight to Taba border, crossing briefly through Israel, to reach Sinai (Egypt) where we met my good friend Seif and spent 2 days in Dayra Camp.
What is it like to go through airport security in Israel, when you travel to the “wrong” countries?
Coincidentally, my passport has now 4 “muslim stamps” (Indonesia, Malaysia, Jordan, Egypt) and one from Thailand.
I was aware that having passport stamps from Muslim countries in your passport, could raise suspicions in Israel, but I wasn’t worried too much about it, especially that we were about to leave the country.
It turns out that leaving from Israel is much more complicated than entering to this country.
In the Israeli airports, before even being allowed to check-in, all passengers have to go through a thorough interview process. That didn’t surprise me much since it was expected, from what I’ve heard.
So, a lady took my passport and began with a series of general questions about why I was in Israel, how long I stayed, what the purpose of my visit was, etc. which I answered very meekly. I thought that was all, but it was just the beginning. She directed me to a different counter, took my passport, and went to talk to some other officers. Instead, she returned with a new set of more specific questions:
“Where where you born?”, “What are your parents’ names?”, “Why did you go to Egypt?”, “Do you know anyone there?”, “Do you speak Arabic?”, “Did anyone give you something to bring with you to Israel?”, “Who payed for your flight?”, “Why did you go to Indonesia?”, “With whom did you travel?”, “Why did you go to Malaysia?”, “With whom did you speak in Kuala Lumpur?”, etc., etc.
Etc. It went like that for about 15 minutes or so.
She then passed me to another officer for cross-examination, while they took my backpack for screening and searching (without me being present). From that point, I realized that my security check will not be as smooth as usual. The new guy asked me the exact same questions again, also asked me some routine questions, such as “Do you have any weapon in your bag?”, “Did you pack your baggage by yourself?” etc.
When he finally finished his questioning, he stuck a red label on the back of my passport and a yellow barcode label on my baggage and told me that I must undergo a physical search.
I later found out the meaning of the code on the label. I was just labeled a “high security threat”.
Despite my request for an explanation for what was happening, I was taken to a room in the back and asked to take off my clothes. My flight was due to take off in about 20 minute. I told them that I was worried that I will miss the flight but they assured me that they would hold the flight if we were late.
I took my clothes off and stood in front of the officer with my legs spread and arms out to my sides as instructed. He then thoroughly searched me and pretty invasively touched everywhere, just like a medical examination, for about 10 minutes. He went over every inch of my body, including my ass, my genitals and even in between my toes. He obviously found nothing out of the ordinary so he continued by doing some sort of scans of my body, using 2 different tools, looking for God knows what.
Eventually, he swabbed my hands and shoes with with a piece of fabric (probably testing for drugs or explosives) and I was told to get dressed and wait there.
At least, they let me have my bottle of water.
By this time, my flight was already supposed to be leaving, but apparently it was delayed. And so… I waited… and waited… getting more and more impatient by the minute. I kept asking for updates and getting nothing. They just told me to wait in that room. Meanwhile, my partner was in the same situation. She was held in another room.
Later on, they finally got back with our backpacks and escorted us to the airline counter where they checked-in our luggage, even though the bags were within cabin baggage allowance and we were supposed to carry with us, and we haven’t had checked baggage in our reservation. I told them I need to get some stuff from my bag, such as some pills and my headphone, but they didn’t let me touch it.
I protested for a while and finally gave up.
“Fine,” I said. “Fuck you too!”, and then boarded the plane, happy to be finally leaving.
Once back home, we realize that everything in our bags was totally messed up.
As final point, I would just like to say that I understand Israeli security concerns and the dangers they probably face, and I don’t have a problem with their techniques. But the attitude the staff showed towards us, an probably other honest travelers, has much to improve.