The Once In A Lifetime 2.0 trip to Israel has began. Upon receiving invitation from the organizers of the trip, I started exploring Israel online – checking out videos on YouTube, reading articles on Wikipedia and the posts written by the bloggers who were on ‘Once In A Lifetime’ trip last year. I decided to come to the country with a blank mind. I did, because I am trying not to be a part of an agenda – as one of my readers from Israel pointed out in my introductory post.
Visiting Israel? Be Ready For “The Security”!
The first impressions of the trip would be the most memorable – and I’d have written this part differently had I posted an update right after my arrival. It’s my 4th day here now and there’s certainly a change in my mindset.
I arrived in Mumbai at about 6:30 pm and I had to board the EL AL flight from the International airport at 11 pm. It was not less than a 50 meter line for the shuttle to the International airport that awaited me at Mumbai domestic airport. The EL AL officials came searching for their passengers and guided me (It helped! Thanks Guys!). After arriving at the International Airport I noticed something ‘weird’. Only the ELAL check-in counters had two rows of security personnel (all of t hem look like James Bond. Hah!). I had to wait in a short queue until one of the security guys asked me to be with him.
Then started the questioning & answering session. And by the ‘session’, I mean a 45-minute long grilling session! The security personnel (let’s call him James Bond) started questioning me. The questions ranged from “Why are you visiting Israel?” to “Who packed your bags?”, “Who was with you when you packed your bags?”, “Why did you visit Malaysia, UAE, Thailand?”, “Do you know anyone in Thailand”, “Why is your invitation letter not signed?”, “Did anyone give you the gifts” and so on. Every answer would reward me with two new questions and the whole process looked like never ending. None of my answered changed the expressions on his face and I thought it was just ‘too much’ when he asked me to open my email accounts and couple of important business related reports just the ensure I wasn’t lying. At one point, I even thought like saying to him, “Hey man! Look, it’s your people who’ve invited me to explore your country! It seems like you don’t want me to go to Israel. Okay, I’ll just go back home!”
James Bond thanked me for my cooperation just a moment before I thought it was ‘enough’. He let me in and I changed my mind. The rest of the process was smooth.
It’s “The Security”, Get It!
It made me wonder why the security guy wasn’t letting me in. I think after spending some time in Israel, I’ve understood some part of the problem. Trust me, you just cannot feel how it’s like to be here without actually being here. For the country that’s always in a state of war with the neighboring nations, security is ‘very very’ important. After meeting several Israeli people and listening to their part of the story – James Bond’s questioning me suddenly looked ‘natural’. He just couldn’t take a chance! It’s his job!
If you’re planning to travel to Israel (I recommend you should!), be ready for security. But don’t lose your patience. Answer all of their questions and you should be absolutely fine.
Arriving In Israel
The EL AL flight took me to the Ben Gurion airport in Tel-Aviv. I was welcomed by Keren & Omry. It was a great to meet Keren and Omry as they did lot of hard work in making sure that I arrive in Israel. Keren & Omry – You are AWESOME! I mean it! We waited for Chris (The Aussie Nomad, my fellow blogger from Australia) and we took a train to Haifa.
The other bloggers had to arrive so Keren and Omry took us through the streets of Haifa and on the way, we could eye-popping-awesome photos of the Bahai Gardens. Check –
The trip’s just began and I can’t wait to tell you how many exciting and amazing places we’ve visited so far. I’m going to upload more photos in my next blog post and it’s going to be about the amazing things we did on the first and second days. Do let me know what you think!
Signing off for the moment. Swimming in the Jordan river has tired me like anything! More about it, in coming posts!