Up, Up and Away: Israeli Security and Easy Jet Adventures

I wish I'd been wearing this. I wish I'd been wearing this. "Bond, James Bond. MI6"

As most of you know by now, I don’t fly very often, especially for someone that travels over ten months annually. Ground travel is my preference, but sometimes one has no other choice but to take to the airways.

jerusalem damascus gate at night

Damascus Gate in Jerusalem

Last month, I needed to get from Jerusalem to Berlin for ITB, which is the biggest travel conference in the world. My problem in getting there overland was two fold: (1) I only had ten days or so to get there, since as usual I procrastinated and (2) going through Syria wasn’t an option, since I just got an Israeli visa stamp. Plus, travel in Syria right now is obviously not recommended.

I’d looked into getting to Europe from the Middle East by sea when I came through this area in 2009 on my round-the-world trip and it isn’t easy. I believe there is an occasional ferry that goes from Israel to Cyprus, where I could then take another boat to Turkey, then overland to Berlin. There also might be a ferry that goes occasionally from Egypt to Italy, but I’ve never gotten solid info on it before.

httpv://youtu.be/EL1Y4DFzJok

Bottom line was that I was going to have to get on an airplane, so I sucked up and booked my first flight on Easy Jet, which for my American readers is basically Jet Blue for Europe. The cheapest flight was from Tel Aviv to London (though not the hell that is Heathrow Airport), so I had the added bonus of being able to catch up with some good travel bloggers there for a few days, before I took the train over to Berlin.

Getting into Israel at the border with Jordan was slightly time consuming, but it didn’t hold a candle to the examination I got leaving at the Tel Aviv airport. It is recommended that you get to the airport a full three hours before your flight, in order to deal with the possible delays due to security checks. I followed that advice.

I needed almost every minute of those three hours.

It started when the person checking passports in the line to the metal detector opened mine, saw how many stamps I had, and pulled me aside for a few friendly questions. I had the chance to answer each of these questions about a half-dozen times from four different inquisitors over the next two hours.

“Why have you never been to Israel before?” “You have been to Syria and Lebanon and Sudan, but why not Israel?” “Who do you know that lives in Jordan?” “Did you talk to any local people in Syria or Sudan?” “Did you ever eat in someone’s home in Sudan or Syria?” “What were you doing in Jerusalem?” “How can you afford to travel this much?” “You have a website — what is the address, we need to look at it.”

Though it all, they were polite and respectful — though I am not sure they believed that I managed to afford to travel constantly based on my website. I’m not sure they were fans after checking my site out. Perhaps an indication I need to make some improvements.

I doubt that I got any new subscribers to my newsletter from this crowd.

They searched my luggage three times. I got a personal run through a metal detector in a different room than everyone else. I had to show them the photos stored on my camera. They took my hard drives to take a look at them; then they came back with them after an hour and asked me to show them my pictures on my computer instead. Apparently, the Israeli security computers run on Windows and not Mac software.

Damn it, now I bet I am going to be flagged for a body cavity search next time I go back for revealing Israeli internal secrets.

michael hodson smoking cigar white tuxedo jacket

I wish I’d been wearing this. “Bond, James Bond. Let me pass. I have a meeting with “M.”

Well, I will be going back. I really enjoyed Jerusalem and want to see a lot more of Israel. I completely understand their security concerns there and as I said, they  were being respectful and doing their jobs professionally. Perhaps doing it a little overly diligently, but then again, maybe I look like a terrorist. I was just happy they let me keep my cigar cutter, after they opened up my travel humidor and found it in there.

That was not the end of my interesting airplane travel day. Hell, at this point, I hadn’t even gotten on the flight yet.

Easy Jet doesn’t have assigned seats. Unlike Southwest Air, who at least divides people out into three or four boarding groups, depending on when you arrive and get your group boarding card, there is no order at all in boarding.

And it shows.

There are two things off the top of my head that most aptly show the inherent poor behavior of people: children between the ages of about 4 and 8 playing with each other (don’t buy the garbage that kids are inherently good and only become “evil” from learning from adults, it is the exact opposite) and people faced with lining up for something where there aren’t any rules.

I’m not sure which of those two groups needs discipline and direction more, but chaos is more the norm than the exception.

Once on the plane, I settled into my spacious 14 inch by 14 inch seat that did not recline to enjoy the six hour flight. I was contemplating between the 3 Euro bag of peanuts and the 6 Euro glass of crappy red wine a couple hours later when I heard someone come onto the airplane’s intercom system in a very heavily accented voice. I looked up and saw that a passenger had the microphone in the front of the plane while the flight attendents looked on.

Sidenote: never say “stewardess.” Apparently that is akin to using the N-word for flight attendents for some reason. I went out on a few dates with one a while back and on the third date accidentally used the S-word.

There was no fourth date.

So this guy was on the microphone and said something like, “My English is very bad, so I very sorry, but talk this in French” and then proceeded to babble away for a few minutes. It quickly became apparent he was proposing to his girlfriend sitting in row 14, because people were standing around her snapping pictures of her with their cell phone and then applauding.

All I could think to myself was…. he just proposed to her on an Easy Jet flight.

In my mind I fast forwarded twenty years in the future, when this woman’s daughter was asking her mother about the magical day her father proposed:

“So he proposed on an airplane? How romantic. Which airline?

“Easy Jet.”

“Huh? I don’t know that one.”

“Yes dear, they went out of business long ago.”

“Well that doesn’t matter, was it romantic? Did he buy you a first class ticket and have them bring you champagne with the ring in the glass?”

“Well…. no. I was crammed into a row with a couple other people I didn’t know. There wasn’t any first class with Easy Jet. Or champagne. But I did get a ham sandwich and a Beck’s beer afterwards.”

“Awwwww, no wonder you divorced him.”

Seriously… Easy Jet? It makes the idiots that propose at sporting events look like the most romantic people on the planet.

httpv://youtu.be/Ac3AzaDohd0

About an hour after that the guy next to me started hitting the attendant call button semi-furiously. I was deep into some bit of garbage TV on my computer (after promising myself I was going to read a good book on the plane, of course) and wasn’t paying attention. But I caught the action out of the corner of my eye and looked over and… his wife was totally passed on on top of him.

The flight attendants assembled to offer their insights. “Should she lie down?” “How about some water?” “Did she eat any of the horrible food we were selling?”

OK, perhaps not the last.

In any case, I went ahead and got up out of my seat and offered her my little blow up pillow, so she could lie down on the whole row of seats and have something to keep her head up. I went back to the back of the plane and stood there for an hour or so, waiting for her to feel better.

You’d have though perhaps the Easy Jet people would have offered me a beer for giving up my seat. Well, you’d have thought that if you hadn’t flown Easy Jet before.

To think that people are amazed when I say that I prefer overland travel…..

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I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all. Read more by Michael Hodson and connect on Google Plus.

39 Responses to “Up, Up and Away: Israeli Security and Easy Jet Adventures” Subscribe

  1. Turtle March 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm #

    Wow, what tough guards! If you got that kind of treatment going into Israel, imagine what someone who is a bit dodgy would have to deal with (and, in this statement, I have assumed you are not “a bit dodgy”) :)

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:43 am #

      I am slightly dodgy, but I don’t think in a terrorist kind of way. ;)

  2. Aaron @ Aaron's Worldwide Adventures March 13, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Dare I ask what number the barcode they put on your passport after the interview started with? I ended up with a 5 just based on my having been to Egypt and got special treatment, though thankfully nobody confiscated my anything for the time being. Still took over two hours just to get from the door to immigration.

    Funny enough though, I also flew into Tel Aviv and that was a piece of cake.

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:43 am #

      I am not sure I got to the bar code part. Basically, I was taken right out of the main line and to a separate area as soon as they flipped through my passport and saw my various other visas.

  3. Adam March 13, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

    Ugh, I hate the security coming and going from Israel. I’ve been lucky enough to not have to go through so much trouble, but it’s certainly not easy and, to be completely honest, I find it to be to the extreme. It seems so common for people to have their hard, drives searched, to be strip-searched, or any other demeaning bit of “security check.” I’ve known too many people who’ve had to endure it.

    Saying that, I do enjoy visiting Israel….once I get inside.

    Also, your easyJet flight sounds AMAZING. I wish my flights could be so exciting!

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:42 am #

      It is extreme. Then again, they have rockets being launched into Israel from Gaza on a daily basis and have about a half dozen countries whose explicit goal is to blow them off the face of the Earth. I can actually deal with security there a lot better than in some crappy US airport.

  4. Jeremy Branham March 13, 2012 at 10:48 pm #

    Remind me to never fly with you! Yikes that was one crazy adventure! The airplane thing I could have dealt with OK. An interesting flight on a cramped budget airline. That one I understand. However, that security stuff in Israel was way over the top.

    However, it does make me curious. I would check our GA to see how many hits you got from Tel Aviv that day! :)

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:41 am #

      I should go back and track my stats from that day. Good idea. LOL.

  5. Tunimaal @ A Gaijin in Japan blog March 13, 2012 at 11:38 pm #

    That’s a nice story… I mean you were so lucky they asked you so many questions :) … I know it’s security check but that’s too much.

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:40 am #

      Well, I do completely understand what they have to deal with in terms of security. They do tend to have a few million people that actively want to blow them up.

  6. Stephanie - The Travel Chica March 14, 2012 at 6:31 am #

    I cannot believe you didn’t get a free beer out of it. At least it was only a 6 hour flight.

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:40 am #

      Yea, it actually wasn’t that bad a flight at all. Interesting at least.

  7. Pete March 14, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    I’m not surprised at the lack of service by EJ. Good on ya for giving up your seat though. Karma will reward you in some other way. As I’m sure it will reward EasyJet :)

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:39 am #

      Is my reward going to be in beer? Or wine?

  8. Samantha March 14, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    An interesting flight on a cramped budget airline. It seems so common for people to have their hard, drives searched, to be strip-searched, or any other demeaning bit of “security check.”

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:38 am #

      I don’t think they were very impressed with the photos I showed them. ;)

  9. Someday I'll Be There - Mina March 14, 2012 at 8:43 am #

    This is a very funny post, specially the proposal part :D

    “Well…. no. I was crammed into a row with a couple other people I didn’t know. There wasn’t any first class with Easy Jet. Or champagne. But I did get a ham sandwich and a Beck’s beer afterwards.”

    this really made me laugh :D

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:37 am #

      Always happy to have people laugh. It was an interesting flight, to be sure.

  10. Nicole March 14, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Good for you that you had traveled to Jerusalem. I’m also eager to travel there especially this lent season. thanks for sharing this! :)

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:37 am #

      It is a really interesting city. I can’t wait to go back, hopefully in warmer weather and without me having to fight a cold.

  11. Fran March 14, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    I was having the crappiest day – -and this post just made me laugh out loud. Thanks!

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:36 am #

      Glad I put a smile on your face. I need to get back to writing a little more travel humor. Since I wrote this whilst drinking… perhaps that is what I need.

  12. Laurence March 14, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Wow. Proposing on easyjet. That is just so..er.. romantic? Yes.. that orange livery.. the tiny chairs.. the fight for the seats.. it’s just what you want to remember your proposal for. Proposing anywhere else would have been better. Even the terminal toilets.

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:34 am #

      I think he might be planning his first anniversary celebration in Heathrow Terminal Two.

  13. Emily in Chile March 14, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    I laughed at the thought of being proposed to on an Easy Jet flight – think I got lucky avoiding that one! And your Israeli immigration experience is yet another reason to thank my lucky stars that I have two passports. I haven’t made it to the Middle East yet, but when the time comes, the Israel stamp will be going in the US passport, and everywhere else will stamp my UK passport.

    • Michael Hodson March 15, 2012 at 5:33 am #

      Yea, the passport stamp issue is annoying. Frankly, I love Syria and Lebanon and can’t wait to go to Iran, but their policies toward Israel, as exemplified by the stamp issue, are abhorent.

  14. Grey March 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    One thing I love when I visit the beautiful place of Israel is the attitude of each person and when it comes to their job, they are professional in works…

  15. Natalie March 17, 2012 at 12:11 am #

    Would I be happy if someone proposed to me on an Easy Jet flight? No, I would be so embarrassed. What was the bloke thinking??!! I never fly Easyjet, glad you made it eventually! :)

  16. Andrea March 17, 2012 at 5:11 am #

    What a horrible ordeal at the airport! That’s pretty much my worst travel nightmare.

  17. Lanaya March 17, 2012 at 5:21 am #

    Thanks for sharing with us.. We are now aware of the easyjet flight.. I really don’t want to experience it.. Very scary!

  18. Ali March 19, 2012 at 5:04 am #

    I have a friend who used to be a flight attendant for a military charter. She went to Israel a few years ago, and her bag had traces of some kind of ammo b/c the soldiers fly with their weapons. She was questioned like crazy, taken to a back room where she had to go behind a curtain, remove her bra and hand it over to them so they could inspect it, and then they made her check ALL of her stuff, purse, wallet, everything, and only let her keep her passport with her. They escorted her to the gate just in time to board before the plane pushed back. Insane.

    Proposal on an Easy Jet flight? NOT romantic. Ugh.

  19. Tom March 19, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Haha, proposal on EasyJet! All class there!!

  20. Cindy March 20, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    UK airport security acts the same sometimes. Am sure it’s more to show the “stupid. rich tourist” who’s boss. Yup.

    Human demands power and feeling of importance.

  21. Karen March 31, 2012 at 9:25 pm #

    I hope not but if it happen, I would not blame them. A lot of Muslim country hate Israel, and if given the technology and opportunity would attack them. I would not blame them if they feel threaten and needs to defend themselves.

  22. Jade - OurOyster.com April 16, 2012 at 2:48 am #

    At least it wasn’t a 6 hour Ryan Air flight! I can’t believe that Isreali security questioned you like that! Another reason why i am hesitant to visit that country

  23. Nancy D April 21, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    I’m so glad I bumped into this blog. I recently returned from Israel back to NY on March 17 and stayed in Jerusalem at the Abraham Hostel most of my trip. What a wonderful place it is, and yes, the security is pretty intense.

    Thanks so much for your story and keeping me entertained!!

  24. Mariella October 23, 2012 at 1:28 am #

    I heard very similar experiences about Israeli security from a friend. He made a valid point I think when he said that he preferred Syria, Iran and other countries just not letting you in with an Israeli stamp over Israel saying they’ll let you in and then making all that fuss. Won’t keep me from going there though. I really want to see the Middle East – all of it!

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