07 April 2012

Israel + Palestine + IRAN = ♥ ? - My take

I was pretty nervous about going to Israel with an Iranian Visa in my passport. Especially because loads of people fear mongered about tight security procedures up to denied entry.

Fortunately I stayed optimistic and it proved to be ok. Here's what I experienced:

Upon arrival

I asked the immigration not to stamp my passport, coz I love to travel and don't want to have problems. The officer found the visa and asked some questions, then asked me to go for an interrogation/interview. I had a rather comfortable 30mins talk with a young officer. She need me to give loads of details just about anything. In advance my friend and I had synced the story we'd tell.
Of course don't tell them you want to visit the Territories! Don't alter your story took much: It's their job to detect lies =) If you got to a point of no return =) change the topic!
We even talked about some everyday topics such as hitchhiking, CouchSurfing and Facebook. In the end they accidentally put the Israeli stamp. No worries, it's just ironic they put it next to the Iranian =)

At checkpoints (Rehan, Bethlehem, Hebron, Beit Jala)

Ok, we entered the territories at Rehan checkpoint - which was nuts to do. I cannot recommend it, because it's simply not allowed for Israelis nor Palestinians nor foreigners to cross here. It's only for the remote Palestian village that has been cut off by the fence. We somehow got in touch with the officers and ran through all levels of hierarchy and finally - after three hours - I convinced them with some Hollywood-like sentences about family, kids and stuff =) Wonderful moment, which proved there's humans everywhere, even at this inhumane concrete Checkpoint. Botton line: even at this no-go-no-chance situation they weren't put off by my Iranian Stamp.

Rehan checkpoint - not to be crossed by any other than certain Palestinians 

Upon exiting

Again, the officer instantly find my Stamp, asked some questions, and gave me and then of course my friend as well the worst security level number, which is "6".
They examined every single thing of our carry-on backpacks and gave us thorough, pretty intimate body checks behind closed doors. Nothing dramatic. The security process took us like 2 hrs. We arrived late at the airport about 2,5 hrs, which is too late on normal days! Plan for 4hrs if you expect to get a "6". On the other side u can gamble and come late, then they have to hurry to get u on the plane, just like they did with us. We had young, friendly staff.

Bottom line: Don't worry about traveling to Israel with Iranian Stamp! Challenge the situation with your sympathy and it's gonna be all right ;-)

Toda. Shukran. Thanks Israel & Palestine 

Love. Craig.

03 January 2012

HNY from NYC