I understood why they say that you have to be at Ben Gurion airport (probably others as well but this is the one I used) 3 hours before departure.
I was flying in and out of Israel with Lufthansa, and as of May 2010, they have their baggage drop counters on T3, Level G. As I was already checked in, I proceeded there and I was happy to see that there wasn't a big line, not even for what I later called "the first screening".
At this stage, my passport and travel itinerary was checked, the security officer asked me the same questions I got when I entered Israel and put a sticker on my passport and my 2 bags. Then we proceeded to x-ray my bags. Because I bought Dead Sea mud and salts, I had to have them open the bag I was checking in and search it.
The second security officer was very thorough wiping the bags and its contents and asked me where I bought my souvenirs and where in Israel I'd been. She did a quick check and wipe of my carry-on bag, electronic devices, etc. and then did a detailed wipe and check of my other bag. She didn't want to open the bags of salts and mud and she packed them in a separate box that I'd get on arrival to Stockholm, then she put on some stickers on my bags.
I then proceeded to go to my gate, after dumping my bag (haha) and getting my boarding passes. Here I had to go thru the usual security check, except that here it's a bit more detailed. The sticker on my passport said which line I was supposed to go to, and here I had to not only take out my laptop, but also every electronic device I had: ipod, cell phone, chargers, mouse. They wiped all of them, my passport, my bag and my shoes. After this second check, I went thru immigration to get my passport stamped out, after answering the same questions about my visit, which I was happy to answer. Then I had about 1h10 for myself and I went on to do some duty free shopping and eat before boarding the plane.
While I was waiting for the checks to be done, I noticed that some other passengers had a "tougher" questioning, as in "where did you get this guide book?", "show me where in Israel you've been", etc., and some where even stopped as we entered terminal 3 from the train station and had their documents checked.
At this point I have to say that the security officers have been very friendly and polite, and while I think that it's a pain to have my things being opened and wiped more than once, I understand that it's their job to do so and I had no problem answering the same questions several times, as I figured it was more boring for them to have to do this over and over.
On a lighter note, there's FREE wifi, in the food court at terminal 3 (no need to buy anything) and the connection is good for surfing (a bit slow tho).
The pictures in this tip are from a mural exposition at the airport.
Tel Aviv is possibly the hippest city in the world. It's a walking city, night and day, cafes are open late, something is always going on. In general Israelis are very educated, interesting and live life to the fullest. As long as you aren't drunk or high you should be able to recognize a situation that would not be good at any time, in any city. Stay straight and use common sense. There are plenty of sleazy people in every city.
Don't stand too close to garbage cans. Some cans might contain explosives. This doesn't occur often, but you will never know.
Also make sure you drink enough. Always bring a bottle of mineral water with you. What out for getting a sunstroke, you can faint if you get one. So always make sure you drink at least 1,5-2 liters of water or other liquid a day!
Travelers to Israel be warned!!!
Don't watch any CNN or other foreign news 1 week prior to visiting.
Youve all heard about the bombings, the shooting and the mayhem.
Let me tell you this: Life in Tel-Aviv is absolutely safe. Its much safer then NYC or London (because of crime).
There have been bombings, but bombings in Tel-Aviv are scarce and the security forces do a very good job. Dont worry and enjoy!
I'm an American living in Tel Aviv almost 2 years now. It is one of the liveliest and probably safest in the world, one where parents don't worry about their 12 year olds being out alone at night.
Of course, there are questionable neighborhoods as in any city, but aside from the obvious, street crime is almost non existent here.
Although the 'piguim' (homicide bombings) are horrendous when they do occur, on balance, the chances of getting hurt or robbed in Tel Aviv on any given day in any given place are far less than in London, NYC, Rome, Philadelphia, LA, Prague,etc. Israelis tend to be warm, concerned people, always ready to help a stranger. If you are a foreigner and ask a local for directions and the conversation lasts long enough, be prepared to be joined by 3 or 4 other strangers as they argue about the best way to get there. They love to talk.
The malls and restaurants are crowded and lively. Security guards may seem intrusive on your first visit here, but you soon get used to them. They do a good job.
As for the busses, Tel Aviv has a wonderful system with cheap fares that runs throughout the city. Have there been incidents on busses? Certainly, but more people by far are done in by traffic accidents and it's almost worth the bus trip to see how fast these guys maneuver thru traffic and marvel at the way they go around impossibly tight corners in the big 2 part articulated busses.
Well I'm writing too much. Enjoy the city. Be sensible, but not paranoid.
OK - so any page regarding Tel Aviv or Israel generally cannot ignore the security issue. This is a personal perspective regarding Tel Aviv (this point will vary from place to place: Eilat, for example, will be very different from Jerusalem).
Security here is a matter of course - there hasn't been a sudden introduction as a result of 11 Sept. There are always security guards at the entrance of public buildings - whether it be a shopping mall, cinema, sports stadium, municipal building. Bags will be searched, metal detector 'wands' used for body searches. More recently, however, has seen an increase to 2 guards (one usually armed) where before there was only one. IT is not unusual, where, for eg, a cinema is inside a shopping mall, to be searched twice - once at entrance of mall, once at the entrance to cinema. It is as normal as say queueing (there have been occasions outside Israel when I have automatically shown a bag to a member of staff at restaurants etc...) so you should not be alarmed by this.
Personally, the one thing I do not do is travel by bus. There are lots of taxis as well as 'sheruts' (shared taxis or minibuses) - both relatively cheap (see transport tips).
The main issue for me is to be alert and sensible: follow this maxim and there is no reason why you should not have a great time in this city.
I slept out on Tel Aviv beach many times, but be warned that a tractor will be along at about 5:30-6:00 am. One of the drivers took great delight in pretending he was going to mow us down.
Also keep any valuables on your person when asleep as I heard of travellers sleeping bags being slashed and the valuables they had shoved down by their feet stolen whilst they were sleeping.
I'm not sure if I would travel to Israel right now, considering the risks worldwide, but if you stay smart, statistically you'll be okay. Avoid areas where you would be unwanted...whatever that means to you. Be safe.
I encountered some homeless people at Tel Aviv, but to be honest, I don't think they are any problem to tourists.