As Israel slowly seems to be returning back to normal, Tel Aviv is coming back to life. Gradually the many businesses, offices, bars, restaurants, and the beautiful beaches are being frequented again, seemingly as if nothing happened.
Not only is Tel Aviv a beautiful and vibrant city situated on the magnificent Mediterranean Sea, it is also home to one of the fastest-growing High-Tech hubs in the world. Tel Aviv has become an attractive destination for large International corporations and tech startups seeking to set up offices there.
When on an Executive Protection task in Israel, as an EP agent you will almost certainly be operating in Tel Aviv. Although Tel Aviv is considered to be a very safe city, it brings its own unique set of challenges to our profession.
In order to give you a head start, this article seeks to provide 5 useful and practical tips with the “EP Agent operating in Tel Aviv” in mind. Hopefully reading these tips will contribute to the smoothness and success of your detail.
1. How to avoid missing your principal at Ben Gurion Airport?
Upon visiting Israel, Ben Gurion International Airport – located next to Tel Aviv, will most likely be the first place that your EP skills will be put to the test. Although Ben Gurion Airport is considered to be one of the safest airports in the world, this does not mean that it is “easy” to operate in. In fact, due to the extraordinary high-security measures, Ben Gurion can be challenging to work in when unfamiliar with this site.
As an EP agent, the “pick up” point is most likely where you will encounter your first challenge. As is common practice in EP, we recommend arriving at least 30 min before the scheduled arrival time. However, this best practice is not always received very well at the arrivals section as Airport police patrol cars continuously monitor, move and even fine vehicles that are waiting at the arrivals section for longer than a few minutes. So, just imagine you arrive nice and early, your client is 20 seconds out… only for your Limo to be forcefully moved by a loud commanding voice over the loudspeaker forcing you to leave.
My insider tip is therefore to have the vehicle waiting at the “departures section” (at the upper floor) rather than the arrivals section. This place allows for a more relaxed spot to sit in your vehicle and wait to receive the principal. So basically just have the vehicle waiting in the departures section and have the EP agent take the principal to the departures floor instead of the arrivals floor. This will enable a smoother and more stress-free pick-up of your principal.
2. How not to be “late” in Tel Aviv?
Over the last few years, a massive underground light-rail network has been built in and around Tel Aviv. If you thought driving in Tel Aviv was crazy 5 years ago, just wait until you get there now. With some of Tel Aviv’s most prominent roads being either closed or limited to just 1 or 2 lanes, massive traffic jams tend to be formed before, during and after peak hours. In addition, many smaller roads are known to be closed off with little to no early warning in turn challenging even the speediest of advances. Bottom line, preplan even more extra time than usual while driving in Tel Aviv.
A good solution that has proven effective in navigating Tel Aviv roads is using the Navigation app: Waze. This is the most widely used navigation app in Israel and it has proven very handy for navigating around the rapidly changing traffic in Tel Aviv.
Do note, however, that Waze tends to recommend detours through some of the narrower streets in Tel Aviv, this can be somewhat challenging in case the vehicles used are wider vehicle types such as an SUV or minivan.
3. On being a commodity and not a liability to your client
When it comes to visiting Government offices and other high-security sites, it is very important to be familiar with the local policy regarding access control, vehicle registration as well as carrying a firearm. Although in most cases the advance agent will be trying to sort out in advance how to make the principal’s arrival as smooth as possible, I still highly recommend consulting with a local EP team prior to visiting one of these sites.
Going over the daily itinerary in advance and knowing the regulations and firearms carry policy and in turn briefing the EP team accordingly in advance will not only save you precious time, but it will also give you a significantly better chance of smoothly navigating these often busy, high-secured sites.
4. Why conducting an advance on Friday is not always a good idea…
Unlike in most parts of the world, the official rest day in the State of Israel is on Saturday – or in Hebrew terms, the “sabbath”, and not on Sunday. Typically, Fridays in Israel are considered to be half working days, or days not worked on at all. In addition, Sundays are considered a normal workday.
It is important to understand the above when conducting an advance in Tel Aviv. It is not uncommon for visiting EP agents to want to conduct a full advance on routes and offices on a Friday.
More than often Government buildings and private companies will not be operating at this time. I therefore recommend, when able, to conduct an advance throughout Sun-Thu.
5. “Should we be worried about all these soldiers on the streets?”
Sundays and Thursdays are known the be the busiest days of the week in Israel. The first reason as previously mentioned is that the Israeli work week begins on a Sunday and for most Israeli ends on Thursday.
However, notably it is on these days that the streets and especially public transport will be swarming with armed soldiers in uniform carrying large backpacks. It is not uncommon for first-time visitors to get somewhat nervous or even stressed out from seeing thousands of armed soldiers walking and running around in the streets of Tel Aviv. Don’t worry, this does not mean the Country is mobilizing for war.
The reason is that Sundays and Thursdays are the busiest days for soldiers commuting to and from their bases throughout Israel. As an EP agent, it is therefore recommended to brief your principal on this phenomenon in advance and explain that this is considered to be perfectly normal in Israel and is no reason for concern whatsoever.
In summary, Tel Aviv is arguably one of the most interesting (and nice) places to operate an EP detail in, however, operating here will always bring unique challenges to even the most seasoned EP agents. Hopefully, the 5 tips provided in this article will give you that extra ‘edge’ so that both you and your principal can have an enjoyable and successful trip to Israel.
Thank you for taking the time for reading this article, hopefully, the above tips will be of help to you on your next EP visit to Israel. Should you ever have questions regarding EP in Israel, please feel free to reach out.
Looking forward to seeing you in Israel!