Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Airport in Tel Aviv

For some reason, while entering a country you don't seem to notice the airport around you; perhaps it's because your prime objective is to put it behind you after hours of dehydration and breathing other peoples' air. But when departing, what with the requirements for allowing time for security, there's enough leisure to look about and get the sense of the place. Such was the case for us in Tel Aviv.

Security was onerous, of course; the airport variety was practically born in Tel Aviv, but deep inside your brain there is a certain gratitude for the efforts expended. Flying is bad enough without adding the risk of some idiot deciding to change the odds of your safe arrival at your destination. Allow time for security: there is a lot of it, and the process is thorough. I've grown to feel that airport security is a bit like prayer before a flight: you may not need it all the time or even believe in its effectiveness, but you can't prove that it's NOT necessary, nor how much is enough. I think the book of Forrest Gump would paraphrase it as "security is as security does".

Once into the departure lounge you'll find one of the largest—and busiest—so-called "Free Tax" shops you'll see anywhere. Not that I believe in Free Tax, but who can resist the opportunity to buy something you'd never consider otherwise? It must have something to do with voluntarily getting into a sealed aluminum tube and putting yourself into the hands of technologies known to occasionally fail. There's a certain portion of fatalism in plunking down $85 for a small bottle of scotch—or $565 for twenty-five cigars—where the end purpose is to turn it into urine or the cigars into ashes. (If I recall correctly, Israel is said to be one of the few countries remaining that still support U.S. demands for an embargo of Cuba. If true, why are they selling Cuban cigars in their Free Tax? Not that I'm complaining. Just asking.)

The Lod or Ben Gurion airport (both names work) is completely different than we remember it from years past. We found it very modern, efficient, clean and comfortable; just about everything that the old airport terminal wasn't. Of course, technology has helped make security less tedious, and the pursuit of wealth now offers conveniences to us poor consumers only dreamed of twenty years ago. The airport is now polished and generic: you could now be just about flying into or out of anywhere else—if the signs were all in Hebrew.

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