Monday, April 23, 2012

On Leaving Israel


By Miri - 

Last week I wrote about crossing the border and entering the Holy Land. That's however only half of the story; eventually you will have to leave again and I feel it's worthwhile to also give some advice as to how to depart without unnecessarily calling the attention of Israeli security to you and ending your trip with an unpleasant experience. 

Ben Gurion Airport security
Rule number one for foreigners is to stick to the recommendation of arriving early to the airport, i.e. three hours before departure of your flight; in the best case you may just have some extra time to rummage through the duty free. While rushing through Ben Gurion Airport towards the check-in, you are probably unknowingly already passing a few security stations, some of them in uniform, others undercover. 
As already mentioned in the previous article, before even being questioned, you may already draw the security personnel's attention to you, if you have any of the following attributes or characteristics, including Arabic or Muslim origin or appearance, as well as an Arabic or Muslim sounding name, previous visits to countries considered to be enemy states, certain types of clothing that are associated with radical leftist political mindsets, i.e. punks, anarchists and the like, as well as people, especially men, of certain age groups (from 19 towards mid 30s) who travel alone. 

Waiting in line for your luggage to be scanned, you will already be asked a few questions, such as “what was the purpose of your visit?”, “where have you been?”, "where did you stay?" etc.. Again, stating openly that you have visited the West Bank may or may not cause the suspicion of the security personnel and there is no blue print as to how to behave. 
On the one hand, the very fact that you have been to the Occupied Territories may prompt them to scrutinise you more, on the other, if you actually did visit the West Bank and tell otherwise, you may later be accused of lying to the authorities. Whatever you decide to say, stay calm and polite and stick to your original story. 

Better to send.
Should you have purchased any pro-Palestinian items, such as clothing with political drawings or messages, information material and the likes, consider sending it home by post, rather than carrying it with you in your suitcase. Other things that are easily recognisable as having been purchased from Palestinians, but that are not of political content, such as traditional embroidery, do not necessarily constitute a risk, especially if you have already stated that you visited Arab places, which could already include East Jerusalem for that matter. The same applies to videos or photos that you have taken. If you have any footage that attests to you having participated in any pro-Palestinian activities, you should consider sending it by mail. Tourist images of sites, places and people, on the other hand, are perfectly fine. 

Should the authorities decide to investigate you further and subject you to interrogation, again, stay calm. A common strategy used by security personnel is to agitate you into panic, an easy thing if the departure time of your flight is approaching. In that case, remind them politely of your schedule and keep in mind that it is not their intention to really have you miss your flight. In fact, if you have to undergo the “special treatment”, the authorities will afterwards escort you and make sure you won't be bothered by any further checks. 

We can conclude this article just as the previous one by saying that, unless you are unlucky enough to be one of the few random picks, and taken that the authorities don't have any previous records or information on you, you should be fine. Bon voyage!


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