Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Leaving Israel: A short-ish play

It's another hot day in Israel and the traveller who has just enjoyed a little over a week on holiday there has taken the Nesher shared taxi service to Ben Gurion Airport. He's already shown his shop receipt and clothes purchases to the tax refund desk and had his application stamped and approved. He has also changed from shorts and t-shirt into his flying clothes and is ready to proceed to check-in.

The traveller joins the queue for security, where people are being questioned before they can go up to the airline counters. After about 30 minutes, the traveller gets to the head of the queue and an Israeli security agent asks for his passport and e-ticket.

Agent : How long have you been in Israel ?
Traveller : Eight nights.
Agent : And where did you go in that time ?
Traveller : I had three nights in Tel Aviv and five in Jerusalem.
Agent : What was the purpose of your visit ?
Traveller : Tourism.

The security agent spends a couple of minutes scrutinising the passport, then looks directly at the traveller to compare his face with his passport photo. She then turns to another agent and says something in Hebrew. The second agent then takes the passport and looks at it in detail. He addresses the traveller, introducing himself and says he is working for Israeli security and apologises in advance if he repeats some of the questions that have already been asked. He then proceeds to repeat all of the questions and adds some more.

Agent 2 : I see you have been to Malaysia.
Traveller : Yes, I had a couple of nights in Kuala Lumpur last year.
Agent 2 : Why did you go to Malaysia ?
Traveller : I think it was a stopover. Just a couple of nights I believe.
Agent 2 : What did you do while you were there ?
Traveller : I went up the Petronas Towers.
Agent 2 : While you've been in Israel, did anyone give you any gifts ?
Traveller : Yes actually, a friend in Tel Aviv gave me a t-shirt.
Agent 2 : What is your friend's name ?
Traveller : Rotem.
Agent 2 : We ask about gifts because sometimes people might be given a gift and actually it contains explosives.
Traveller : Well, I don't think this would. It's just a t-shirt.
Agent 2 : From now on, do not accept anything from anyone you meet in the airport. OK ?
Traveller : OK.

Agent 2 proceeds to put various stickers with numbers and bar codes on the traveller's bags and says he should now proceed to the x-ray machine. He does this, and the check-in and carry on bags are x-rayed. It's the biggest and most powerful looking x-ray machine he has ever seen at an airport. When the check-in bag comes out, another agent tells the traveller he must now go to different queue for a visual inspection.

The queue is short, but processing is slow. Eventually, the traveller is called over by another security agent who puts on gloves and wipes the outside of the check-in bag all over with an explosives testing swab. She goes to her machine and comes back after a few minutes. She then asks for the bag to be opened and swabs it extensively. She goes away, comes back, swabs again, goes away, comes back and asks to see the gift the traveller was given. He produces the t-shirt, which is still in a shop carrier bag and has not been worn. Swab, disappear, come back, swab, disappear, come back. Presumably, the tests found no traces of explosives.

Agent 3 : OK, you can go to check-in.
Traveller : Thank you. (Closes up bag, goes to walk away).
Agent 3 : Just a moment please.
Traveller : Yes ?
Agent 3 : I have to accompany you.
Traveller : OK.

The security agent accompanies the traveller to the British Airways check-in desk. She takes him to the First Class check-in, where there is no queue. She says he is getting the special privilege of a speedy check-in because of the long delay he has had with security. She then stands and watches until check-in has been completed, the bag has disappeared along a conveyor belt and the boarding pass handed over. Only then does she walk away, without another word.

The traveller proceeds through Departures, where hand baggage screening is conducted as normal - although the x-ray machine is again very large and presumably very powerful. The agents here are courteous and smile. All done in a matter of minutes, then the traveller is stamped out by immigration. He goes to the VAT refund desk in the Duty Free area, where he collects his 71 Shekels, minus 11 Shekels "commission" (there is commission on tax refunds ?).

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