how the world sees america

WELCOME TO ISRAEL

BEN-GURION-AIRPORT-0.jpg
Ben-Gurion Airport.

TEL AVIV - It's 130 miles from Beirut to Tel Aviv, about the distance between Washington and Philadelphia. But there's no peace agreement between these two Middle East hubs, so the journey takes a full day by air with a stopover in Amman, Jordan.

But for this American visitor, the real challenge doesn't begin until arriving in Tel Aviv.

The ceilings, walls and walkways of Israel’s Ben-Gurion International Airport are disconcertingly large. Towering sheets of glass around a long, slanted walkway segment the arrival concourse, making the planeloads of passengers look and feel small.

The walkway opens up to over a dozen passport controllers who ensure that the wait for the inspection is uncommonly brief. It also enables each controller to be thorough.

A woman with large, green eyes reviews my passport, once, twice. She looks up. I smile. She doesn’t. She says I must submit to further questioning in the back.

So I’m led to a waiting room where a Jordanian woman is leaning her head against the beige stone wall, and a Syrian businessman is snapping his briefcase open, closed, open. An Israeli-American student glances up at them as she turns pages in her textbook.

“Bakshi!” a firm female voice calls. “Come with me.”

Behind the waiting area is a row of spare offices, staffed by young women in their twenties wearing beige-colored uniforms.

I’m seated before one of them, who eyes me and a form on her computer screen.

Then questions begin. “What is your father’s name? What is your grandfather’s name? Where are they from? Where were you born? Why are you here? Who do you know in Israel?” And then “What did you do in Pakistan? In Turkey? In Lebanon?”

I explain the project. “Show me the website.” I do. She clicks through it.

Good, more page clicks for me! I think to myself.

“Go back and wait.”

Another twenty minutes pass by and I jump up this time when I hear my name called again. “We have more questions.” I’m led to another office. This time two women younger than me interrupt their gossip when I’m led in. “Journalist?” they ask. “Can we see your website?” I happily oblige, and ask her to spread the links among her friends.

As she clicks, she asks, “How is America perceived?”

“Well, it depends who you ask,” I say rather unimaginatively, and then solicit her views.

The conversation stops. “I don’t want to talk politics,” she says abruptly, and then laughs, leading me back to the waiting room.

Another twenty minutes tick by. I watch my watch.

And a third woman appears saying, “We have a few more questions.”

It feels like a round of speed dating, I think to myself. Except slow, repetitive, and a bit kinky since they’re all uniformed women ordering me around.

The same questions come. I give the same answers.

“OK,” she says. It’s over. I’m lead now to customs.

Dozens of people shove their way through a narrow gateway into the baggage terminal, which is guarded by one lone woman collecting their customs papers.

“Stop,” she says to me, “Go over there.”

Another waiting area. What is it about me? I wonder. She didn’t even see my passport! Is it because I’m a young man alone with a big black bag on my back?

“I’ve been through this three times before!” I protest.

“Those were border security,” she explains. “We are internal security.”

To my astonishment, I’m asked the same list of questions a fourth time. I watch my lonely luggage sitting at the far end of the vast collection hall.

It’s a bizarre routine, I keep telling myself as I wait, bored. Inefficient, stupid.

But I grow increasingly on edge this time. So close and yet so far away, after a long day. And I grow insecure.

What might I have done wrong? I didn’t think I needed any visa as an American. Maybe my name is the same as someone on their lists.

As I stew, the fourth woman comes back and says perfunctorily, “I apologize for the inconvenience. You may go.”

Was it really a silly inconvenience, or was there something at work there? It's a reminder to this American journalist that no matter where I come from, I am now in the state of Israel.

The large sign above me drives home the point. In huge neon letters it reads: "WELCOME TO ISRAEL.”

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Comments (52)

French person.:

Good idea, Sam...
...and good luck.

Well, not to offend (i mean it) Bakshi, but you may not look (for some people like those you met) so American.
Also, I've been to Israel a few times and never had a problem. Moreover, it's faster than any other airport I've seen in my life (a lot): they remade it a few years ago.
As a French, I can tell you on last summer and last one only, coming back from Israel, the customs staff has thoroughly examined my luggage, opening each and every bag and verifying every detail on me; after I've been searching for my luggage for half an hour.
Just to show you that might be a coincidence or simply securing racism (which would be scandalous but even the USA have problems with Americans having bombs in their luggage, so identity papers aren't enough for them). You can verify by trying again.

SAM:

Israel is nothing but another South africa of the Middle East.The only solution for this chronic Dlemma is establishing one secular country on all the land of Historical Palestine for Jews,Moslems and Christians with equal rights and responsibilities and without any kind of descrimination.

Ben Graham:

Eileen Fleming, you received special treatment because of the very nice Palestinian fiance who, about 20 years ago, lovingly put his pregnant Irish girlfriend on an El Al plane with a bomb packed in her purse. It was El Al's inspectors who questioned the young woman thoroughly and then took steps to search her belongings before finding the bomb.

Mom and baby are doing fine by the way. So too are the other passengers who were not blown out of the sky.

Metin TalksTurkey Newport Beach CA:

I wonder if those 'girls' are reading what you wrote about them here, and will they stop you on your way out of Israel as well?

By the way, did you ever get their phone numbers, or email addresses, or at the very least their Facebook accounts?

Were they manly . . . or feminine? And you don't have to answer this question until after you leave the country . . .

:)

Isaacsohn:

wow. nbahn, have you recieved an education? Because I refuse to believe that any educated person would espouse such ignorant and hateful thoughts publicly. Just making snide comments about how anti-semitic chrages are tossed around arbitrarily doesn't actually convince people that the comments weren't anti-semitic. Also, do you know anything about comparative politics or history? It would be national suicide for Israel to uni-laterally return to pre-1967 borders without equally balanced concessions from the other side, any one who knows anything regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict realizes this. Also, unilateral retreats were tried out of Gaza- they don't work. Gaza is the jail you speak of just as much because of the Gazans themselves as it is the fault of the Israelis. Who do you think brought running water, electricity, literature, newspapers, and agriculture to that region? Yea, you guessed it, the Israelis, what have the Gazans done for themselves? They voted in Hamas to lead them, a group not even INVITED to peace talks, how is that going to help their cause? Anyways, although you somehow think it is socially acceptable to mock this idea, why don't you keep your extremist, undeniably and inherently ANTI-SEMITIC remarks to yourself, not for us, because no one can take you seriously, but for your own sake, so more people don't recognize your ignorance and hateful nature.

David Ellis-
It is equally if not more ignorant to equate Jews moving to and colonizing London to the movement of Jews into Israel. The religious claims to the land are made on both sides and are equally worthless. What matters is that no London existed in Israel in the early 1900's, no Palestinians existed then, for the idea of "Palestinian" only came about as a RESPONSE to Israel. What existed was a group of Bedouins who lived there, and when the Jews came they fought with each other intermittently. After the Holocaust (heard this one too much before nbahn, think its "overused" and doesn't apply, and that the Jews should quit whining?) there was already a large Jewish population in what was then British Palestine, and the Jews needed SOMEWHERE to go. As it turns out, the places you mentioned wouldn't take them, and the Jews had realized they needed a place that would always take them, and there were limited options. The movement of Arabs out of their homes by the Israelis is indefensible, as is both sides' inability to live peacefully side by side, but to disregard the circumstances that led to the Jewish state being created where it is created is, unwillingly perhaps, anti-semitic in that it treats the Jewish actions with a harsher and more critical tone than the colonization of other, if not more, equally "evil" colonizations. How many blogs are there about the Ismaiili muslims being kicked out of their homes? Who are they you might ask? That's what I thought.
Bottom line- get educated

Vic van Meter:

Wow, there's a lot of whining about security checks in airports in Israel. It's almost comic for most of us, but come on, people. Just being to occupied territory doesn't make you a terrorist threat, but occupied territory is a breeding ground for terrorist threats.

Seriously, what did you people expect? You don't have dignity in an airport. You're talking about the lifeline of transcontinental people transportation, and a mode of transportation you can't just jump out of the door of at a red light. It's a juicy target for terrorists. Unless you occupied Palestinians wouldn't mind one of those bombs getting through and killing you. The bombs are non-discriminating.

Right now, in America, they're testing equipment that is, basically, a automated, clothed strip search. A machine that sees straight through your clothing to your skin without you ever taking off your clothes. And that's going up right in line with the x-rays and metal detectors. As well they should! Your privacy and dignity are meaningless when a Boeing 747's full passenger compliment is threatened with death if you detonate a bomb.

Personally, I don't care if they DO remove my modest dignity. I feel sorrier for the poor guy sitting behind the machine who has to see me naked.

Ed Weissman:

Re: The Franklin "speech" regarding Jews:

It's a hoax. See http://www.adl.org/special_reports/franklin_prophecy/print.asp

Eileen Fleming:

I have been to Israel Palestine five times since June 2005.

On July 28, 2007, I left the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem: Occupied Territory at 8 AM and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport fifty minutes later.

I only hire Palestinian drivers whenever I travel in Israel Palestine, and for the first time in all my five journeys, my Palestinian driver did not have to leave his car and go into the interrogation building. Security asked me politely for my passport and to get out of the car and identify my luggage in the trunk. I did as I was told and then security returned my passport with a round blue sticker and the number 78 on the back cover. The sticker marks one as being with a Palestinian and triggers a more in-depth interrogation inside the terminal.


I told Samir, my driver, "I am not removing the sticker this time. I am livid to the point of over boil at all I have seen and heard these past two weeks and I will not shut up until I get it all out. I will be writing for the next week about what I have learned and I am going to tell airport security exactly where I have been and that I have been reporting it all on the web. I am flaming mad at my government and pathetic mainstream media who do not tell the truth about what is really going down in the Holy Land, which is all in pieces; Bantustans! Bush and Olmerts concept of a contiguous Palestinian state means connecting the unconnected enclaves with underground tunnels while the illegal settlers; colonists; squatters get to use the well paved apartheid roads and my tax dollars support this occupation and injustice! I am totally pissed off and whipped and worn out with misery and grief at all I have seen, heard and it has gone to my gut; my heart in other words, and I will not be silent; I cannot shut up."

Samir just shrugged.

The very first Ben Gurion employee, who questioned me, was the very same young trainee I had encountered in November 2006, but I didn't tell her that I remembered her. Eight months ago she was hesitant and apologetic in her questioning, but she had now mastered the routine, and there was no joking around. She was very concerned if anyone had given me anything that could be a bomb.

I told her nobody gave me anything except coffee, tea, water, soda, cookies, fruit, hummus and bobaganouh during my visits in Palestinian homes in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and in the Dasheish, Aida and Jenin refugee camps.

"How many times have you been to Israel?"

"This is my fifth trip."

"Do you have family here?"

"Not blood family, but friends who have become like family."

"What was the purpose for your trip?"

"I am an Internet reporter and I came to investigate what my government and the USA media doesn't talk about."

"So, have all your trips here been for business?"

"You could say that."

She then led me to the first x-ray machine, and after my bags passed through, she returned to me accompanied by another young woman and a young man in a suit.

He asked me; "How many times have you been to Israel?"

"This was my fifth trip and I spent all my time in occupied territory."

"Where have you been?"

" East Jerusalem, Bethlehem , Ramallah and Jenin. I am an Internet reporter and you can read all about my journey on my website," I replied as I handed him my card.

He looked at it carefully, smiled and replied, "Very nice, very interesting."

"Thanks. I hope you will read what I have to share."

"Oh, I will. May I keep your card?"

"Of course, it is yours and tell your friends to read me too."

"Thank you for your cooperation. There was a problem with your bags, they must go back through the x-ray machine."

"OK," I said and returned once again to where I had just been.

After the bags came back out, the young man in the suit informed me, "Your bags need to be further examined."

He led me to the next phase, a large rectangular space of tables with x-ray equipment in the middle and delivered me to station number 9, where three females were waiting for me. They asked me to open up all my bags and with plastic gloves on their hands; they swabbed and examined every surface and every article. My sunscreen lotion and Pink IPOD shuffle caused them some concern, but what really got them nervous was a stain on an old suitcase and they wanted to know, "How long had it been there?"

I had no clue as I borrowed the bag from my daughter and hadn't even noticed it until they brought it up. It took 35 minutes for them to go through all my stuff, and all my careful packing was for naught. They were pleasant enough, but nobody responded to me when I said, "All of this happens just because I have been to occupied Palestine? Oh well, every experience is writing material."

After they were satisfied I had no explosives in my luggage, one of them offered to help me repack, but I declined. As soon as I was zipped back up, one of them told me without making any eye contact, "Now I have to check you for metal."

"OK, sure, but I think you mean a strip search?"

She didn't respond and led me to the examining room where my shoes, belt, and jewelry came off and she told me to sit down and she would be right back. After my shoes and belt passed the x-ray inspection, she returned to me and told me to extend my legs so she could pat them down. Then she instructed me to stand up and hold my arms out so she could wand me all over. The wand kept alarming in the vicinity of the metal buttons and rivets on my jeans. She said, "Have a seat; I must get my supervisor."

She returned with a young woman, who also never made eye contact with me and commanded, "You need to drop your pants around your knees."

I complied and after she wanded me all over she turned and left, and I called to her back, "Did I pass the inspection? Can I get dressed?"

She never responded but my first 'companion' said "Yes."

I was then led back to my luggage and another female; one who did make eye contact and smiled a lot. "Come with me," she said and I did.

She led me to the front of a line of about twenty travelers' at the Continental check in desk. Two American women had been first in line and behind them was an angry looking man who yelled at my 'companion' in Hebrew. She responded without a smile in Hebrew back to him, and then smiled when I said to the Americans, "I got to cut in front of you, because I am a security risk. I have been to occupied territory and have been writing what I witnessed and learned on the World Wide Web." I handed them my card and added, "I hope you will read all about it and tell your friends."

After receiving my boarding pass, my 'companion' led me on, and as soon as we were out of ear shot from the line of travelers she remarked, "Israelis can be so very rude."

I responded, "So, all this personal attention is just because I told the truth?"

She smiled again but made no comment until we passed through the employees security check and arrived at Passport control. "Sorry to have put you through all this, but it's just our job."

"I know how that is for I have been doing mine in occupied territory and this morning's experience has provided me with my next article."


e
http://www.wearewideawake.org

Eileen Fleming:

I have been to Israel Palestine five times since June 2005.

On July 28, 2007, I left the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem: Occupied Territory at 8 AM and arrived at Ben Gurion Airport fifty minutes later.

I only hire Palestinian drivers whenever I travel in Israel Palestine, and for the first time in all my five journeys, my Palestinian driver did not have to leave his car and go into the interrogation building. Security asked me politely for my passport and to get out of the car and identify my luggage in the trunk. I did as I was told and then security returned my passport with a round blue sticker and the number 78 on the back cover. The sticker marks one as being with a Palestinian and triggers a more in-depth interrogation inside the terminal.


I told Samir, my driver, "I am not removing the sticker this time. I am livid to the point of over boil at all I have seen and heard these past two weeks and I will not shut up until I get it all out. I will be writing for the next week about what I have learned and I am going to tell airport security exactly where I have been and that I have been reporting it all on the web. I am flaming mad at my government and pathetic mainstream media who do not tell the truth about what is really going down in the Holy Land, which is all in pieces; Bantustans! Bush and Olmerts concept of a contiguous Palestinian state means connecting the unconnected enclaves with underground tunnels while the illegal settlers; colonists; squatters get to use the well paved apartheid roads and my tax dollars support this occupation and injustice! I am totally pissed off and whipped and worn out with misery and grief at all I have seen, heard and it has gone to my gut; my heart in other words, and I will not be silent; I cannot shut up."

Samir just shrugged.

The very first Ben Gurion employee, who questioned me, was the very same young trainee I had encountered in November 2006, but I didn't tell her that I remembered her. Eight months ago she was hesitant and apologetic in her questioning, but she had now mastered the routine, and there was no joking around. She was very concerned if anyone had given me anything that could be a bomb.

I told her nobody gave me anything except coffee, tea, water, soda, cookies, fruit, hummus and bobaganouh during my visits in Palestinian homes in Ramallah, Bethlehem, and in the Dasheish, Aida and Jenin refugee camps.

"How many times have you been to Israel?"

"This is my fifth trip."

"Do you have family here?"

"Not blood family, but friends who have become like family."

"What was the purpose for your trip?"

"I am an Internet reporter and I came to investigate what my government and the USA media doesn't talk about."

"So, have all your trips here been for business?"

"You could say that."

She then led me to the first x-ray machine, and after my bags passed through, she returned to me accompanied by another young woman and a young man in a suit.

He asked me; "How many times have you been to Israel?"

"This was my fifth trip and I spent all my time in occupied territory."

"Where have you been?"

" East Jerusalem, Bethlehem , Ramallah and Jenin. I am an Internet reporter and you can read all about my journey on my website," I replied as I handed him my card.

He looked at it carefully, smiled and replied, "Very nice, very interesting."

"Thanks. I hope you will read what I have to share."

"Oh, I will. May I keep your card?"

"Of course, it is yours and tell your friends to read me too."

"Thank you for your cooperation. There was a problem with your bags, they must go back through the x-ray machine."

"OK," I said and returned once again to where I had just been.

After the bags came back out, the young man in the suit informed me, "Your bags need to be further examined."

He led me to the next phase, a large rectangular space of tables with x-ray equipment in the middle and delivered me to station number 9, where three females were waiting for me. They asked me to open up all my bags and with plastic gloves on their hands; they swabbed and examined every surface and every article. My sunscreen lotion and Pink IPOD shuffle caused them some concern, but what really got them nervous was a stain on an old suitcase and they wanted to know, "How long had it been there?"

I had no clue as I borrowed the bag from my daughter and hadn't even noticed it until they brought it up. It took 35 minutes for them to go through all my stuff, and all my careful packing was for naught. They were pleasant enough, but nobody responded to me when I said, "All of this happens just because I have been to occupied Palestine? Oh well, every experience is writing material."

After they were satisfied I had no explosives in my luggage, one of them offered to help me repack, but I declined. As soon as I was zipped back up, one of them told me without making any eye contact, "Now I have to check you for metal."

"OK, sure, but I think you mean a strip search?"

She didn't respond and led me to the examining room where my shoes, belt, and jewelry came off and she told me to sit down and she would be right back. After my shoes and belt passed the x-ray inspection, she returned to me and told me to extend my legs so she could pat them down. Then she instructed me to stand up and hold my arms out so she could wand me all over. The wand kept alarming in the vicinity of the metal buttons and rivets on my jeans. She said, "Have a seat; I must get my supervisor."

She returned with a young woman, who also never made eye contact with me and commanded, "You need to drop your pants around your knees."

I complied and after she wanded me all over she turned and left, and I called to her back, "Did I pass the inspection? Can I get dressed?"

She never responded but my first 'companion' said "Yes."

I was then led back to my luggage and another female; one who did make eye contact and smiled a lot. "Come with me," she said and I did.

She led me to the front of a line of about twenty travelers' at the Continental check in desk. Two American women had been first in line and behind them was an angry looking man who yelled at my 'companion' in Hebrew. She responded without a smile in Hebrew back to him, and then smiled when I said to the Americans, "I got to cut in front of you, because I am a security risk. I have been to occupied territory and have been writing what I witnessed and learned on the World Wide Web." I handed them my card and added, "I hope you will read all about it and tell your friends."

After receiving my boarding pass, my 'companion' led me on, and as soon as we were out of ear shot from the line of travelers she remarked, "Israelis can be so very rude."

I responded, "So, all this personal attention is just because I told the truth?"

She smiled again but made no comment until we passed through the employees security check and arrived at Passport control. "Sorry to have put you through all this, but it's just our job."

"I know how that is for I have been doing mine in occupied territory and this morning's experience has provided me with my next article."


e
http://www.wearewideawake.org

israeligirl:

The stupidity of almost all of you people is incredible.

Israeli state apologists? "Take your filthy wars and leave us alone?" Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

Israel is neither a police state nor is it a fascist state and its security procedures are in response to its security needs.

Do any of those commenters who made the above statements actually *know* any Israelis? Ever been here? I doubt it.

Don't speak so unless it's from experience, please.

nbahn:

Michael Hardesty--

Uh, oh. You made a reference to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion"! Now you are going to be in for it! Prepare yourself to be accused of either being an *actual* anti-Semite, or of being an *apologist* for anti-Semites.

Michael Hardesty:

Incredibly racist comments from Israeli State apologists. Well, I wonder WHY Israel has so many enemies, could it have something to do with the dispossession of the native Arab population ? Or it's vicious occupation of the
West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza (still at will),
the Golan Heights, southern Lebanon ? We involuntarily subsidize all this. The arrogance
and pure fascism of the Israeli supporters makes
the Protocols seem like a serious understatement.

Mel:

I'm sorry for your inconvenience. All of us who fly frequently have some of these unpleasant delays. It doesn't seem surprising that Israel might have the most careful/unpleasant entrance policies. I'm certain that you knew that, too. The last time I entered Israel, they were still reacting to the Japanese murderers. I was extremely inconvenienced but much younger.

Rahul:

Better than being questioned by smelly male guards at Muslim nations' airports.
I don't blame Israelis, for they stand as the only civilized nation among barbarians of Middle East.

$4.99:

Well, you are not a Jew so you must be "bad" in their eyes. American passport? Who cares in Israel as they preceive America as "their" colony.
Journalist? Washington Post? Big deal, because you have a muslim sounding name.

Think of it this way: not long ago, they used to treat blacks in America in that way (and in some parts of America, they still do so!). And American immigration and customs agents treat people from many countries of the Middle East that way: last year, the immigration service in San Francisco arrested an Iranian husband and wife, both university professors that were attending a conference, put chains on their feet and hands and held them for three days even though they simply asked to go back and they didn't want to visit USA!

So, be thankful that you are a citizen of the only friend of Israel...... and remember it was YOUR tax dollars that paid for that entire airport, the pseudo-security and the hassle that you experienced. The tour brochure did not mention any of this, did it?

Amar C. Bakshi:

Hi MM,
Yes, I certainly agree there is a method to asking the same relatively basic set of questions again and again. It became clearly to me around the fourth time! My questioners were universally attractive; Israelis are beautiful people. And yes, indeed, security is very important here. Yet it does of course come with greater and, in this case, lesser costs.

Vic van Meter:

It sounds almost fun to be questioned by attractive Israeli interrogators. Then I realize everyone else has probably already thought of this. And I wonder how often they get hit on by people whose parents "may have helped pack their suitcase."

Stupid Article:

Nice article. You fail to mention the success the Israelis security has taken at stopping their neighbors desire to blow up any Israeli that exists. Israel welcomes its visitors to allow them to enjoy the freedom Israeli society provides to its citizens. That's why the majority of Israeli Arabs PREFER Israel to remain a jewish state. Sorry you can't say the same about Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia....

MM:

I understand that questions can be intimidating, and I'm sure they didn't make you feel welcome. That is most unfortunate.

Having said that, the questions are not inefficient. You are asked similar questions over again to make sure you are consistent. Someone who was giving a false identity / false reason for travel might flub on the 3rd or 4th questioning. It's a nuisance and inconvenience, but that's all it was, and if that's the only security inconvenience you face when entering a nation that is more or less at war, that's rather mild.

I noticed that Ahro called Israel a police state. That's rather laughable. In real police states like Syria, Iran, North Korea, etc., you get a minder after you enter the country. By contrast, every country has customs.

nbahn:

"Israel does what it needs to do in order to ensure that its people (and its visitors) are able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a day at the beach without a bomb falling on them (contary to popular Western ignorance)."
--isaacsohn

isaacsohn--
If Israel was *truly* interested in peace, then it would negotiate in good faith with its neighbors; but since it doesn't want to withdraw to the '67 Green Line, it won't. Israel has made the Gaza Strip the world's largest open air prison. Likewise, it has also greatly restricted the freedom of movement in the West Bank of all Palestinians. That's not negotiating in good faith, that's collective punishment (and don't try to peddle the canard that the Palestinians control their own borders -- the Israeli "Self Defense" Force does)

someone:

amar,
there are a few things you forgot to mention. maybe you don't know these little particularities. but anyways, here goes:

you were asked your father's name because many israelis don't have a middle name, and many many people in israel have the same combination of first and last names. asking your parents' names is simply their method of identifying you, and they do this to everyone.

you were asked what you were doing in pakistan, turkey, and lebanon because those countries (or their populations) are hostile to israel. for example, now that your passport has an israeli stamp, you cannot return to lebanon with it. period. israeli border authorities recognize this and they may have given you a paper with an israeli stamp (they do this for some diplomats and journalists upon request). you probably should have included this detail in your post.

also, being an american will not get you off the hook. in 2003, 2 british citizens of pakistani origin blew themselves up at a bar next door to the american embassy. a few months later some french youth of arab decent were caught with explosives, though this was not as well publicized. so if you have a middle eastern or south asian name you might be harrassed. you probably should have done your homework by calling an embassy ahead of time and asked what to expect.

you were asked the same question several times so they can check for discrepancies in your answers. they also pay very close attention to your facial expression and body language. if you look or sound nervous, you'll get more questions.

and finally, tel aviv is not the capital of israel, jerusalem is.

nbahn:

"Hey David Ellis,
"Why don't you take your filthy antisemitism and leave Amar's blog alone?"
--politicsguy

politicsguy--
I guess that it was inevitable that a member of the Israeli Lobby would hurl the "anti-semitic" accusation; can't you at least vary your attacks a bit? Try charging your opponents as being neo-nazis -- at least it would liven up your (truly monotonous) attacks.

Daniel:

When I go through a security checkpoint in this country, get examined (not questioned) by a bored TSA guard who misses 75% of the fake bombs they use to test him but catches every tube of toothpaste and water bottle.

All four of the people who questioned you at Ben Gurion were women? You probably didn't raise any real red flags. They use opposite gender questioners to put people at ease. If they really thought you were suspicious, they would have put you alone in a room with a male guard grilling you. As it was, the four probably compared notes to make sure you gave them all the same answers. It's apparently really hard for a terrorist to keep his story straight when he's under the stress of planning murder/suicide.

brian mcc, the arctic:

You're lucky, what the world fears most is a writer or journalist. I went through that **** in London, 'this isn't about politics, who do you know in Ireland? How much money do you carry, and what's with the guitar? Go wait in this cell, with 11 African detainees...we'll get back to you.' 1 very pissed off mother with a newborn at her chest, detained @ Heathrow, on 9/11/2004, I sat at her table, lunch was provided. She spoke French, more mumbling, hissing like a cat. I was drawn to her eyes of red, fire in the eyes, fire in the head...
I tried to sleep on the concrete floor, jetlag. My name was called, and I was escorted by 2 gorillas to an airbus destined for the country departed. 'Where do you want to go sonny, irish man, Seattle?'
No, I want to go home. And I did, 2 years later in Cork, Ireland, customs asked me, 'Why were you arrested @ Heathrow?'
Because I'm Irish. My passport was stamped, despite my international arrest record, 'Welcome to Ireland, welcome home.'

If you look like a journalist, you probably are one. The footprint of the UK is Canada, Australia, and Ireland. The latter is my only freedom, but wanted in Belfast.

Will you be travelling again soon to Tel Aviv?

Gilly Youner:

Hi Amar,
interesting article...as a child, freckled and pale-skinned caucasian,born in Israel, to an Israeli mother, but living in the US, I visited Israel in the late 60's both before and after the Six-day War.I was taken into a booth, patted down, and questioned and re-interviewed each time by a matron or female army graduate...I don't go into any other airport in the world today without thinking, this security system is pathetic compared to what we used to go through boarding El Al and coming to Israel. I never felt as safe as I did then...even when my equally racially profilable Canadian cousin got the third degree treatment travelling with me last summer...because? so take it personally if you like...but no more than you should going into a store and having the clerk follow you around to make sure you are not shop-lifting...they do it to everyone-some of us are just more sensitive to it than others.
ps bureaucrats the world over are brusque and abrupt...customs and security agents at least have a bit more reason to be so-they are the first line of defense.
Peace,
Gilly

PoliticsGuy:

Hey David Ellis,

Why don't you take your filthy antisemitism and leave Amar's blog alone?

I've gone through these security checks myself. They are trained to catch even the tiniest bit of inconsistency or perceived threat. I once told a security girl that my parents helped me pack my suitcase and got 10 extra minutes of questions about who my parents are and which items they helped me pack. At least the girls are usually cute...

I'll say this though: its worth it. There are people out there who would give nothing less than to kill every Jew in Israel, and there should be no shame in an active defense.

Amar, are you going to blog a bit more about your experience in Israel? I'd love to hear more of it from your perspective.

Westerner:

Don't believe everything that you read and consider the source.

Hint:

KJ...

Might wish to check before quoting Benjamin Franklin on the subject of Jews.

Google his words on the subject. Just saw them recently.

FYI, he thought of them as the rest of the world does/always has. Nothing changes.

Hint:

KJ...

Might wish to check before quoting Benjamin Franklin on the subject of Jews.

Google his words on the subject. Just saw them recently.

FYI, he thought of them as the rest of the world does/always has.

regular:

A lovely people.

Not just at the airport.

Worldwide. Just sweet. By nature. For centuries.

David Ellis:

To all you zionists: Yeah, Israel is small. So are London, Paris, and Hong Kong. Why don't you try ethnically cleansing one of THOSE places, for Jews? Yeah, i know. GOD HIMSELF didn't promise YOU London.

I'm really sorry you lost your brawl with the ancient Romans and all. But I just wish you'd take your filthy wars and leave US alone.

david:

poor you, you had to be asked security questions- How will you go on?

stella:

um...let's see: you are surprised/irritated that a country surrounded by other countries that want to destroy it, a country where men (and sometimes women) walk into public places and blow themselves up (with everyone around them going up too), you are surprised that this country has tight security? im surprised they even let people into the country, not that they interrogate and search those who seek to arrive (or even depart--ive been held up for hours on both ends). until there is peace, we will have long airport lines. so it is written.

stella:

um...let's see: you are surprised/irritated that a country surrounded by other countries that want to destroy it, a country where men (and sometimes women) walk into public places and blow themselves up (with everyone around them going up too), you are surprised that this country has tight security? im surprised they even let people into the country, not that they interrogate and search those who seek to arrive (or even depart--ive been held up for hours on both ends). until there is peace, we will have long airport lines. so it is written.

ullhaq:

Are you going there again

ALAM:

hey bakshi

No offence, but u look like Muslim :P

(another muslim)

sprtzkr:

When you go to Colombia you will see the opposite and wish you could have a police with you!

KJ:

"Isaacsohn:

Ahro, security is vital for liberty to be enjoyed."

They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
~Benjamin Franklin

Isaacsohn:

Ahro, security is vital for liberty to be enjoyed. All the freedoms we call liberty can only come when there is security. Try enjoying freedom of assembly or speech when there is anarchy in your country. Israel does what it needs to do in order to ensure that its people (and its visitors) are able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a day at the beach without a bomb falling on them (contary to popular Western ignorance). O, and by the way, the U.S. does the same only worse, ask most Muslims travelling into this country.

Isaacsohn:

Ahro, security is vital for liberty to be enjoyed. All the freedoms we call liberty can only come when there is security. Try enjoying freedom of assembly or speech when there is anarchy in your country. Israel does what it needs to do in order to ensure that its people (and its visitors) are able to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee or a day at the beach without a bomb falling on them (contary to popular Western ignorance). O, and by the way, the U.S. does the same only worse, ask most Muslims travelling into this country.

Garak:

Dilbert lives in Israel! (And every other country, as well.)

Ahro:

Daweeni....you would rather give up liberty for security? israel is a police state. It is difficult for anybody to travel there, and even worse if you are a Palestinian....

daweeni:

I've been pulled aside going into London a few times. I guess I fit their profile. Maybe it's my looks? I'd rather be stopped at an airport, than have my life stopped for good. I'd rather have you stopped at the airport, too.

Frank:

It figures the Wash Post has an article like this. You ever think that a country as small as NJ has to protect it self from all the Arab countries that surround, that want to destroy them. If they drop there guard that's when someone gets through and tries to put us in the sea. Not in this lifetime! Next time try another airport!

Baqi Barzani:

Your experience in Israel seems distinctive from the rest of countries you have been to. It makes readers crack up, especially the way you have put it down here. What is your next destination “ Christopher Columbus “ (Amar)?

Thanks for your outstanding coverage. I truly enjoy reading ‘em.

anonymous:

Hilarious, I could not stop laughing. Were your inrtviewers attractive at least?

Mubasshir:

A Palestinian blogger's perspective on Annapolis:
http://www.countercurrents.org/haddad231107.htm

Blog: http://a-mother-from-gaza.blogspot.com/

Amar C. Bakshi:

Here's an Israeli blogger's perspective on Annapolis:
http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/
Please feel free to add more you find interesting. I shall do the same, and if you're interested, we can begin a discussion of Annapolis. I'll post on a specific POV from East Jerusalem very soon.

Amar C. Bakshi:

Mubasshir just emailed me this excerpt from the book
Sharon and "My Mother-in-Law: Ramallah Diaries" in which the author Saud Amiri describes the experience of a Syrian crossing through Tel Aviv's airport in 1995. You can find an excerpt here if you're interested:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0375423796/ref=sib_dp_pt/105-8625688-9162852#reader-link

Mubasshir:

Dear Amar,

In Israel, life is like that only! Do read the mail which I am sending you...

Anonymous:

Dear Amar,

In Israel, life is like that only! Do read the mail which I am sending you...

Vic van Meter:

I was laughing myself to death reading that. Welcome to the country that puts its back to the corner and starts swinging at anything that moves when the bell sings. Israel's necessity of military action aside, they've got a short list of local friends and a long list of local enemies.

Poor Amar. Your name probably looked similar to some alias used long ago by some now-dead terrorist leader and you get paraded through the questionaire of death. And through a monstrous concrete terminal at that! It couldn't have come out of a book any better.

I thought airport security was strange in Columbus. I guess when you're Israel, you don't take chances. It's probably why they've managed to stay standing so well despite the fact that probably all of their bordering neighbors have integrated civilian militant parties chomping at the bit to wipe them off any conceivable map of the Middle East.

At least they didn't jail you, my man. Have fun in Israel. May the checkpoints strip-searches be brief and your days be removed from the random crazies wearing explosive vests.

Maybe I should go live in Israel for a while. Looks like the place teaches you to live on your toes. Crazy little state, isn't it?

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