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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Isolating Travellers to Israel, Security Report

Way back when, when I was a young mother schlepping my kids with me to see the family in the states, the planes couldn't do the whole trip without a stop-over.  Sometimes we'd be locked n the plane during refuelling and other times we'd be isolated in the airport.  Try that with active kids. 

It always ended up that we had to get off the plane when the kids had finally fallen asleep or were forced to stay on it when they needed to run around.  And once we'd get to the "holding area," there never was anything to do or food to eat.

When I started traveling by myself I went by El Al many times, and there I never felt like a second class traveler.  But recently on Delta and on United I realized that we get an extra security check before boarding, after being checked like other passengers.

Once we got into that special area, we couldn't leave or we'd have to be inspected again.  This was in Newark Airport.  We went through the same in JFK flying Delta last year.  Some passengers claimed that it's the airline that insists.  I don't know if that's the case.

I was warned not to photograph the security procedures, but I just couldn't resist taking a picture of the prayers.  A Mincha minyan was organized at least once..

This year the only airport that didn't insist on a "lower pat-down" was in Israel.  I tried traveling with different skirts, but Phoenix, Arizona and Newark didn't care, full or tight, I was required to undergo a pat-down.  In Newark there was also the total body x-ray inspection.  There was a sign saying that if we refused we'd have a body search, which is worse than a pat-down. 

And this year, in both those airports they insisted on patting my headscarf, too, even when I wore a small, flat one.  I was offered the privilege of patting my own head and then having my hands inspected chemically for whatever they were searching for.

The public just stands in line and obeys.  We really have no choice, do we?


Leah said...

I always laugh (sarcastically) at this....They have us go through all of this and meanwhile, the other day, a 9 year old boy got past security with no ticket and boarded a plane. He ended up in Rome.
The TSA spends more time stealing money and valuables then it does in protecting the travelers. No joke.

Batya said...

Leah apropo to your last point. That's why I agree to public patdowns. I don't want to lose sight of my bags, especially the valuables.

Peter said...

Elal is particularly nasty as far as security procedures are concerned. They have a special area after all the regular security checks (scanning, unpacking the computer, no liquids, pat down, etc) and ask question about family and who speaks hebrew in the family - things that have nothing to do with the trip. Then they ask one more time to unpack everything, they unpack new, storebought items that already underwent scanning (and of course, they are not able to pack it back correctly).

I will avoid Elal as much as I can in the future (and flying, and trips to Israel).

Batya said...

Peter, that's profiling and the best. It's better than checking my head scarf for explosives and patting me down every time. In Israel, I'm waved through a lot of security after profiling.

Eliyahu S. said...

Yes, profiling is the only effective way to handle security. In Israel, ElAl can use profiling to pre-screen travelers and then focus putdowns, etc., only on "suspicious" characters. The TSA, instead, targets everyone, and ends up accomplishing nothing. Yes, nothing, because they have "caught" many pocket knives, false teeth, and colostomy bags, but not once have they nabbed a real terrorist. Their checks didn't prevent a shoe bomber or an underwear bomber, but since then they have hassled everyone's shoes and underwear. They are always trying to recreate a defense against a threat they missed in the past, without being clever enough to proactively work against any future threat.

If we were lucky, they'd be abolished after their next screwup, but in fact no bureaucratic organization expires when its usefulness ends, so America has now saddled itself with an internal set of national police/thugs who will make people miserable for decades to come.

Batya said...

Eliyahu, you got it right.

Peter said...


Well I suppose you like "profiling" because the one who gets the body search and has to remove the head scarf is the arab woman, not you.

If profiling meant that you get the body search & full search of your luggage, (say because you are jewish) but others (say non-jews) not, I think you would resent it. I think, after having followed your blog for some time, you would even ascribe it to antisemitism.

furthermore, I think it should be a prerequisite for security personnel that they learn to repack correctly what they unpacked. and the company should foot any damage done. elal does not do this, they do not even apologize.

Fortunately, I am not forced to go to Israel, so I just stay away from this flight company & israeli airports.

Peter said...


I do not feel the "profiling" is very targeted. I get the impression that it is "reverse antisemitism", disguised under questions that do not mention the word "jew". i.e. if they find you are jewish, they think you are harmless, if they find you are not jewish, they find you are a threat and will search you... Since they have to ask stupid questions without the word "jew" (so as not to seem discriminatory), they do not even get their labels right...

Peter said...

PS: I have many reservations against airport security as it is done today. But despite my reservations, I have to admit that there are far fewer plane bombings and hi-jackings today than there have been in the 70es when the security was not in place... and this despite a steep increase in air transport.

Hadassa said...

How many Jews - or anyone belonging to any faith other than Islam - have tried to blow up a plane, anywhere in the world? The seemingly stupid questions are so the security personnel can see if your talk fits your appearance, and also just to get a feel for who you are and whether or not you're anxious, hostile, nervous etc., which could indicate a security threat. If you're just worried about missing a connecting flight, they'll figure it out. Guards do it at checkpoints in Israel to every driver, and that includes Jews.

Peter said...

I am happy you are such a fan of israeli security procedures, it's better for you when you live there.

As for tourism: Israel does not need tourists, so they can do very well without me and any people who dislike the security procedures and therefore avoid the country. At least, they show it very clearly when they check such suspicious tourists... Of course, they do not find anything in 999 cases out of 1000 or 9999 out of 10'000 or 999999 out of 1'000'000. but i am happy that the israeli public still thinks it is "targeted". At least, they do their homeland propaganda properly...

Leah, Maaleh Adumim said...

1. my husband doesn't like the x-ray machines, and while flying domestically in the US at one of the airports with the x-ray, they gave him a pat-down instead. during this time they made him leave his hand luggage several yards away. when they finished the pat-down, his computer was missing, and hasn't been found to this day.

2. what I don't like about all of the "secondary screenings" (pat-down, etc) is not just the unpleasant "groping", but the fact that you must leave your wallet, computer, and other valuables several yards away in a place where you cannot see them while the "security" people are groping you. I don't know why "security" requires you to not be able to see your valuables during this procedure. El Al doesn't require this of anyone. whereas, in the US, the "security" people will often dump out all your valuables from your hand luggage onto a table, and go through it, while you cannot even watch to make sure that they put everything back.

3. the "security" measures in the US are more pointless and inconvenient than any other country in the world (including Israel, Europe, etc) and as a result - tourism in the US has gone down drastically in the past 10 years. people in the tourism industry (hotel owners etc) have written about it.

4. I totally agree with Hadassah's description of the supposedly "pointless" questions. I think it is not specific answers they are looking for, but they are just making conversation to get a general feeling as to whether they are talking with a truthful or deceptive person.

I have also found that Israeli security people are polite and respectful towards all travellers, as opposed to US "security" people who treat innocent travellers as "the enemy".

5. in general I have found that Israel's security is much less intrusive than in the US, and that people who complain about it and claim that "as a result they will no longer visit Israel" - actually hated Israel and Jews even before any supposed visit, and never really intended to visit Israel anyway.

the proof - in the past 10 years, Israel's tourism has been increasing and that of the US has been decreasing.

go Israel! :)

Batya said...

Peter, don't claim to know what I think or feel. Remember that the facts show that me and my kind aren't terrorists. It's a ridiculous waste of time for security personnel to do extensive security checks on me. What is your agenda?

Hadassa, yes

Leah, Maaleh Adumim, too bad that honesty isn't a requirement for TSA workers. In Israel, such security jobs are for those who are army veterans, and it's considered an important job.

Batya said...

Peter, don't claim to know what I think or feel. Remember that the facts show that me and my kind aren't terrorists. It's a ridiculous waste of time for security personnel to do extensive security checks on me. What is your agenda?

Hadassa, yes

Leah, Maaleh Adumim, too bad that honesty isn't a requirement for TSA workers. In Israel, such security jobs are for those who are army veterans, and it's considered an important job.

Peter said...

"that people who complain about it and claim that "as a result they will no longer visit Israel" - actually hated Israel and Jews even before any supposed visit, and never really intended to visit Israel anyway."

Hm - that is a strange conclusion. That is as if i wrote that any american complaining about US security procedures was a traitor to his country. No, you can be bothered by airport security without hating the country and its inhabitants.

I will admit to be a hater airport-security hater in general and, practically speaking, I also avoid the US although I am not sure I would travel there anyway.

As far as Israel is concerned, you are completely mistaken. I do speak fluent hebrew and used to travel to israel a lot, I still like the country as such, but I really do avoid traveling there because of the airport security.

This is the only way I feel I can defend myself against the intrusive questionning, the racist nature of the "profiling", the incompentence of the personnel in repacking what they unpacked and the general lack of welcoming attitude on the Israeli airports.

By the way: I would recommend the author of the blog to do the same with the USA if she is bothered by their airport security. Tell your family to come and visit you instead of visiting them.

Batya said...

Peter, your statements are based on miss-readings of what I've written. Obviously you really don't read, nor listen very carefully. You don't know anything about me.

Peter said...

Look, "Leah from maaleh Adumin" does not know anything about me but that I object to security procedures as done by Elal and on israeli airports and for this reason avoid travelling to Israel. Still, she implies that I hate Israel and jews and would not travel to Israel anyway. I informed her that she is mistaken and that her conclusion was not quite logical.

I know a lot more about you than you or Leah from maaleh adumim know about me, because you regularly express your opinion and report on facts of your life on this blog and also on other blogs.

Still, the only thing I stated about you - in this thread - is that I suppose you like profiling because the one who has to take off her headscarf and undergo a body search etc. is the arab woman, not you.

I still think that, if, for some arbitrary reason, you were regularly classified as "dangerous" by Israeli airport & plane security, you would come to resent it as much as you resent the security procedures in the US: I think you appreciate being let through in Israeli security, I suppose you would resent being searched, and would resent it even more if you were targeted for searches while others are not.

Batya said...

Peter, you're just repeating your same old gripes.
I know a TSA person very well who finds the American system useless.

The Israeli system is better and if innocent people in the cultural risk group are annoyed, then they should work to make their society better and not rant about those keeping the world safe.

Peter said...

I envisage that you could honestly believe that the Israeli system is more efficient than the american one.

However, I get the impression that you lack the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes, and to view a situation from a standpoint other than your own, subjective one.

If, for argument's sake, women over 50 wearing a headscarf and a skirt were deemed a "risk group" for some reason or other, you would be very, very miffed at the security procedures you have to undergo according to "Profiling", as you are miffed by the procedures you have to undergo in the US. Who knows, you might belong to a risk group according to the US classification...

Peter said...

PS: There are many tourists among the innocent people in the risk group, I don't know exactely how those groups are determined.

Some say that women traveling alone are considered a risk group, others say men traveling alone are considered a risk group. Some say if you speak hebrew you are considered a risk group, some say if you don't speak hebrew you are considered a risk group. some say if you have not yet booked your hotel you are considered a risk. Some say if you travel with a group and then go on your own for a few days you are considered a risk. some say photographic equipment is considered a risk...

Anyway, I suppose that most innocent tourists, who for some mysterious reason are considered a risk, will try to avoid the nuisance by staying away from the country, and I recommend you to do the same to avoid the US security inspections you hate.

Batya said...

Peter, you haven't a clue. Why should I stop visiting my very elderly parents just because the TSA is run by idiots and worse? I'd rather do my best to put up with their nonsense and then have meterial for my blog.

You really don't understand me at all.

Peter said...

If you have to travel, you have to swallow the pill, that's logical.

I do understand you, better than you think, I dislike the security procedures as much as you do.

I even can understand your bias in favor of a security system where YOU can get away without any intrusive checking. In general, I do not mind security when I have a badge that allows me to bypass it.

What I cannot understand is why you are not able to understand people who had similar bad experiences with the Israeli security system. I just read your article where you ridiculed an irish passenger who was not allowed to board a flight to Israel with her handbag.

well: the fact that on the one hand you complain so loudly when you have to submit to security procedures and still are so callous towards other people who have similar or even worse problems shows me that you are not able to put yourself into someone else's shoes and to feel compassion for someone who is not exactely like you.

Your argument that you know that you are not dangerous is a fallacy. Because 99,999% of the passengers hit by the israeli system also know that they are not dangerous.