Thursday, May 20, 2010

Security Israel

Security in Israel
Flying in to Israel is much different than expected. I'd imagined tons of security. Soldiers with automatic rifles. Being questioned by intense immigration officials. There is none of that. Not even the tourist form to be filled out as when flying into the United States or Mexico.

For me, it is the absence of security upon landing in Tel Aviv that is surprising. There are no lines of airplane passengers waiting to go thru the Israeli immigration passport checkpoint. Only one or two people waited at each of the four lines. I waited less than one minute before a young woman behind the immigration checkpoint window beckoned me forward.

Immigration: "On what flight did you arrive?
Me: "El Al from Madrid."

Immigration: "How long do you plan to stay?"
Me: "Until July 20th."

The immigration woman stamped my USA passport with her border control marker which is good for 3 months. She inserted a paper into my passport and gave the passport back to me.

"What's this?", I asked holding the paper. "It's a gate pass for the immigration exit", she told me. I walked over to the immigration exit where two unarmed women were chatting nonchalantly. One of them took my gate pass, handed me back my passport and I walked into a hallway with a huge glass wall/window overlooking the Ben Gurion Airport food court.

I had cleared Israeli security in about two minutes!
Ben Gurion Airport food court

5:30AM - Nesher Sherut to Jerusalem
Just outside of the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv waits Nesher Sherut minivan taxis. Sherut means "service" in Hebrew. For the price of 40 shekels [$11US], Nesher takes passengers from the airport to the door of their destination in Jerusalem.

A Nesher taxi heads out for Jerusalem when all 10 seats are filled. This early morning ride took only 40 minutes to go the 50 km trip mostly on Highway #1 going east to Jerusalem.

When I arrived at Gershon's apartment he was up and expecting my arrival. Over coffee, we talked about what had been happening since our last meeting in 2008.

9AM - Shimon picks me up
You may recall that during my 2008 Israel trip I met Jerusalemite Shimon Z'evi. We are both about the same age and although we are from different worlds, took a liking to each other. Over email since then, our friendship grew.

We made plans on the phone this morning for Shimon to drive to Gershon's apartment to pick me up. I should have taken the Egged [eh-gehd] bus to Shimon's home because traffic is heavy out front of the apartment. Stopping even for a moment here is dangerous. So, Shimon had to park about 1/2 mile away and walk to where I was waiting for him.

We drove to Shimon's home and spent a few hours talking. Then my traveling adventure caught up with me. I could not keep my eyes open! I crashed on Shimon's couch for a couple hours but was still sleepy and tired. We both decided that I probably needed a couple of days resting to get back to feeling energetic again.

I caught the Egged bus in front of Shimon's home and went back to Gershon's apartment. Once back at the apartment, I was not even able to make a blog post because of being so sleepy. That is why these posts from Jerusalem have been one day late.

Shimon and I plan to get together again this coming Sunday after Shabat [Sabbath weekend]. I believe that I will have recovered from my plane trip by then.
Egged bus trip back to apartment