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Posts Tagged ‘Tel Aviv’

Airport security: A world of difference between the U.S. and Israel

It all sounds good. But I fear it’s also empty promises. I just returned from Tel Aviv, Israel. I kept a keen eye on security procedures throughout my trip. I saw some changes to security. But I was also again reminded of the differences between the U.S. approach and the rules and procedures Israel has in place.

On January 6th, I checked in at Philadelphia International Airport to fly to Tel Aviv, Israel. One noticeable change at the airport was increased presence of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers. I counted 10 plus a dog in the area (many more than usual). About an hour from landing, the captain asked us to take our seats. We were then required to remain seated when we were 30 minutes from landing.

Other than that, it seemed to me to be business as usual. That’s not to say security was lax. Certainly U.S. airport security has become much tighter since 9/11. But other than more TSA officers and being asked to remain seated, additional security precautions were not apparent to me.

Now let’s compare the current state of U.S. airport security to Israel’s approach. In Tel Aviv, security is in place long before you arrive at the airport. On the highway, you have to pass through a checkpoint manned by Israeli border police. Officers look into your car and assess the occupants before letting the car pass through to the airport access road.

You’re screened again upon arrival at the terminal. The men and women who perform the security checks are highly trained in evaluating travelers. They look for telltale signs, check stories, ask questions, and stare you in the eye as you answer their questions.

They are skilled at noticing subconscious body language (“tells“) that can reveal when someone is lying. And they will pull you aside for deeper questioning or other actions if they have the slightest concern. You can’t check in for your flight until these officers are satisfied that you don’t pose a risk. In fact, you can easily be interviewed multiple times by various agents if any one of them doubts about your motives.

Your checked luggage is also screened before you check in for your flight. Nothing gets to the counter — much less the airplane itself — without quiet, comprehensive, repetitive scrutiny.

Ben Gurion International Airport has not had a terrorist incident nearly 40 years, despite being surrounded by legions of Jihadists who would gladly sacrifice themselves. And guess what? They maintain this successful level of security for travelers without asking any to remove their shoes.

I’m not saying international travel isn’t safe. What I am saying is that the world should take a hard look at how Israel protects travelers, and ask what we can learn from their impeccable track record. It’s especially impressive when you consider, again, that Israel is probably the radicals number one target for destruction.

It’s a shame that, since the incident with the so-called underwear bomber, some folks have been inconvenienced more than is probably necessary. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories about “the new airport security,” where delays and lines are longer and more tedious. While this is true in some U.S. airports, I didn’t experience this in Tel Aviv. It’s an interesting contrast. Ben Gurion International has tighter security, yet it is easier for travelers to deal with.

Despite the failed underwear bomber attempt, the TSA’s measures are clearly working most of the time. Otherwise, we would have experienced more incidents like the near-miss on Christmas Day, or worse. That said, we don’t want and can’t afford any more near misses or successful attacks.

We should learn from the best. And right now, the best airport security operation is in Israel. Let’s hope the TSA is paying attention.

Friendly Planet Travel giving travelers what they want, according to Conde Nast Traveler’s 2009 Readers Choice Awards

As I was home catching up on some work-related e-mail this weekend, I spent some time browsing the latest Condé Nast Traveler: 2009 Readers’ Choice Awards. I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I read that once again, Friendly Planet has it pretty well covered in terms of what travelers want.

Take the Top Cities category. We offer trips to eight out of the top 10 Asian cities: Bangkok, Hong Kong, Chiang Mai, Kyuoto, Shanghai, Jaipur, Tokyo, and Hanoi. Singapore, also on the top 10 list, is coming in 2010, and that’s just Asia. We also cover four out of five of the best Africa and Middle East cities: Cape Town, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Dubai.

FP_Plane.jpgThe No. 1 and No. 2 airlines on the list of Ten Best Global Carriers – Singapore Airlines and Emirates – are prominently featured on some of our tours. And even some of the world’s best hotels, such as the Fairmont Hotel Dubai, are found on our programs.

So, you could be thinking, "big deal." A lot of companies feature these places, these airlines, and these hotels. And that’s the point. A lot do feature all of this and more, but at what price? That’s where we differ from almost everyone out there. The best for the least means something in my mind. It translates into a lot of work in creating the tours that result in great vacations in great destinations at great prices.
 

That’s the thought  I had after reading these lists, anyway. But more importantly, how do YOU think Friendly Planet Travel stacks up? Are there cities we don’t offer that you wish we did? Where do you want to go with us? Let me know in the comments section below! I would really love to hear from you.

A step through time: Classic Israel

Last week I told you about our customized tour options through the Holy Lands. Well, we also have a set tour through Classic Israel. On this nine-day vacation, travelers can see, touch, and experience the land of the Bible, as it was in ancient times, and as it is today.
This trip’s itinerary features all of the most important Biblical sites. And unlike many of our other vacation packages, there aren’t any optional tours on Classic Israel, because everything “must see” is already included in the program and part of our low price of $2,199.
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Every tour is escorted throughout by a certified Friendly Planet Travel teacher-guide who knows and loves the land and will make the Land of the Bible come alive. Every hotel has been selected for its location, comfort, and service. And every day of the program has been carefully designed to be sure that our vacationers’ experiences in Israel is the best.
The journey begins in Tel Aviv, and travels north along the Mediterranean Sea to Caesarea, the Roman capital of Judea. There, travelers have a chance to explore the beautifully restored theater and extensive and ongoing excavations of the ruins of the ancient town, its harbor, and aqueduct.
Next is Megiddo, Biblical Armageddon. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Megiddo’s 20 major strata contain the remains of around 30 different cities and holds a central place in the biblical narrative. Continue to Mount Carmel, where Elijah defeated the priests of Ba’al then on to the Sea of Galilee.
The next morning, set sail through the Sea of Galilee aboard a wooden fishing boat built to represent vessels used during Bible times, and arrive at Capernaum, once a simple fishing village, where Jesus was often a guest of his disciple Peter. Here, vacationers can visit the ruins of the ancient synagogue and house of Peter, then continue to Tabgha, site of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and the Mount of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount.
Travelers will drive south via the Jordan Valley to Beit She’an, an extraordinary excavation of an ancient Greco-Roman city. Located some 30 kilometers south of the Sea of Galilee, Beit She’an was one of the major cities in the land of Israel, due primarily to its location at the intersection of the road to Jerusalem and the road to Transjordan. Next is Qumran and the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.
Next, travelers can enjoy a cable car ride over the historic fortress of Masada. After a tour of the extensive excavations at Masada, continue to Ein Gedi, David’s waterfall and a pristine nature center.
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On to Jerusalem and everything the fascinating city entails, including the Mount of Olives, Mount Scopus, Mount Zion, the site of the Upper Room, the Kidron Valleyn and the Garden of Gethsemane. Within the walls of Old City lie the Via Dolorosa, the restored Jewish Quarter, the Western (Wailing) Wall, the Rabbinic Tunnels under the Wall, the Temple Site on Mount Moriah, and the Garden Tomb.
The final destination of the nine-day journey is the new city of Jerusalem, outside the walls of Old City. Here, travelers will find the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed, the Memorial to the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, and a model of the city during the Second Temple period.
If you’ve ever dreamed of understanding and experiencing more about the origins of faith — whether that be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim — this journey of Biblical discovery and spiritual renewal in Israel, Land of the Bible, will be an unforgettable adventure. For more information or to book now, please visit the Friendly Planet Travel Web site.

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

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