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What’s the scoop with Ben Gurion Airport?
You may have heard about the yellow passport stickers at Ben Gurion Airport or maybe received one yourself when visiting Israel. The 10-digit number on the sticker always starts with the number 1-6 (or, in rare cases, 6T). Number 1 is said to be the lowest perceived threat level and number 6 is the highest (and 6T is said to be an extreme threat). Here’s how the numbers are meant to work:
- 1 and 2 – Israelis who are not considered a threat
- 2 – foreign diplomats
- 3 – foreingers who are not considered a threat
- 4 – those who are slightly suspected of a threat
- 5 – those who are strongly suspected of a threat
- 6 – those who are considered extremely risky
- 6T – those who are considered to be an extreme threat
The yellow stickers have never been officially explained, but travelers to Israel seem to agree with this threat system.
Ben Gurion Airport’s safety and security measures are said to meet the highest global standards, but some travelers may think they’re too strict. Torsten had an interesting welcome when arriving at this Tel Aviv airport a couple of years ago, but came away unscathed after a lot of questions (even one asking about his grandfather’s name) and an agonizing passport inspection.
Questions that seem quite random, such as asking a grandparent’s name, are very common at Ben Gurion, as Claudiaexpat explains. They’re designed to test your reactions, both verbal and physical. The questioning (which can feel like an interrogation) may take just three questions or continue if the agent is suspicious, but you’ll certainly be questioned more if the number on your yellow sticker is high.
Chris Weller, a US reporter, received a 5 when he recently arrived at Ben Gurion Airport, but thinks it was because of his journalist assignment, because he was traveling alone and because he isn’t Jewish.
Tell me more about Ben Gurion Airport…
Built in the 1930s, Ben Gurion is Israel’s main airport and has two main terminals – one for domestic and low-cost international flights and one just for international flights. The airport is centrally located in the heart of Israel, about 15km from Tel Aviv and 40km from Jerusalem.
What else do I need to know about Ben Gurion Airport?
While security at Ben Gurion Airport may be strict, it’s not personal – it’s matters of Israel’s national security. It may just be the safest airport in the world partly because of this particular security procedure.
If you’re headed to Israel, you may want to ensure you allocate more time when landing in or leaving one of its airports.