Ben Gurion protests provide a harsh welcome to Israel for unsuspecting tourists

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Israelis protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 3, 2023. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg)
Israelis protest against plans by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government to overhaul the judicial system, at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, July 3, 2023. (AP Photo/ Ohad Zwigenberg)

Hundreds of unsuspecting tourists receive a harsh welcome to Israel as they are greeted at Ben Gurion airport by thousands of anti-judicial reform activists with noise makers and drums, filling Terminal 3 with cacophony.

Emerging into the ferocious noise is a group of British university students visiting Israel for the first time with the Taglit Birthright program.

“I’m awfully scared. I’ve never experienced anything like this before,” says 18-year-old Ella Cohen, from London.

She was unaware of today’s airport protest, and said her first impression of stepping into this version of Israel is that it’s “chaotic and a bit unsafe.”

British tourist Elle Cohen arriving at Ben Gurion airport amid a protest on July 3, 2023 (Carrie Keller-Lynn/Times of Israel)

“Looks like Israel is a democracy, but what are they demonstrating for?” asks Eleopold, 75, from New York.

He says that he has heard of the judicial overhaul through US media, but doesn’t know how to contextualize today’s demonstration.

“We came off the plane and just ran into this thing,” he says.

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