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Ben Gurion Experience…

November 25, 2009

I am back in the states now…after a long and painful trip from Ramallah to Seattle. Heres how it went…

I went to Tel Aviv the night before my flight with my roommates and a Palestinian friend from Ramallah. We went to this really nice hippy-ish district called Florentine to a bar called Hoodna. It was a really nice place. So we chilled there for a few hours then, around 330am we decided to head to Ben Gurion (my flight was at 730 am).

We left Florentine and tried to find the Ayalon south in the maze of highways around Tel Aviv that are notoriously confusing because of the lack of signs–kind of important when you dont know your way around. So eventually, we found Ayalon South and headed towards Jerusalem (Ben gurion is on the way).

After half an hour of driving we realized that we had probably gone too far, and nothing looked familiar. But we had no idea there was more than one highway to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Ughh…So ends up we were on the wrong highway which doesnt go past Ben Gurion, so we had to turn around and go back to Tel Aviv to pick up the right highway.

Around 5am we made it to the airport, and I was already stressed because the security at Ben Gurion is sooooo tough and usually takes hours to get through all the interrogation and security checks. So we drove up to the airport–which is preceded by a checkpoint. As we pulled up, I remembered that we were in such a hurry to get there we forgot to change the drivers. My friend Tariq from Ramallah was driving…and its much better to have an international driving than a Palestinian because of the intense (and racist) security.

So we pull up to the soldier, and she sees Tariq and asks for his ID (only his). Then she tells us to pull over to the side of the road for futher inspection. By this point Im exhausted, stressed, and now even more paranoid of the security because they are on full alert because I showed up with a Palestinian guy.

We pull over, and they ask Tariq to get out of the car. Now…Tariq is not the average Palestinian–he has studied and lived in Scotland for a couple years, always dresses in sweaters, sweater-vests, or ties. Speaks perfect english and everything. Yet, the security still treats him like hes some Hamas terrorist with an AK.

So they pat down my friend, then tell him to open the hood of the car so they can make sure its a “real car” and not a bomb. ha. Then they check the back of the car, under the car, on top of the car, in the luggage in the car…..and my legs are shaking–ha.

Then they make my roommates get out of the car, show their passports, pat them down, etc… Then they finally get to me. I get out of the car, and they tell us to go into this waiting room at the checkpoint. So we’re sitting there and before I can fully indulge my paranoid fear, the soldiers come back and beckon me to the car.

2 big soldiers with M-16s tell me to come with them to another little room with my luggage. My luggage is sitting on the ground and they bring me a cart. But they wont go within 10 feet of my bags. So I watch the guys standing aside in fear of my backpack and with all of my remaining engergy put it all on the cart and push it behind them to a little inspection room.

Inside, they open my bags, take everything out. x-ray everything, and interrogate me. Finally, they say I can go back to the waiting room.

Then they take Tariq to the same room I was just in. He, as always, is overly polite and patient, in a situation where the rest of us are completely pissed off because of the unhidden racism.

When they finish with Tariq, they give me a little card all in Hebrew to take to the security inside the airport saying “This will make it easier for you to get through security”. HAHAHAHAHAHA

I get to the airport and my friends walk me in and we say our goodbyes. Then I walk up to the first step of security. Before I even get to a metal detector or x-ray machine Im telling my story to 5 different security guards who come up to me and ask the same 10 questions.

“What was the purpose of your trip to Israel? What did you do during your stay in Israel? Where did you go? Do you have family in Israel? Do you have friends in Israel? How did you pay for this trip?….blah blah blah…

The whole time Im almost comatose after being awake all night, plus like a week of stressing out about this upcoming airport experience…so I mechanically answer their questions. “I was a tourist, visiting the holy land. I saw my friend Dan. We met a long time ago, but we stayed in touch. I was in a car accident and got money from it, thats how I paid for the trip.”

Then the head of security comes over to me, and I still havent even gotten through the first step of security yet.

“Im just trying to understand why you were here for so long…..”

Ok…time to bust out the loooooove story.

Me: “Well, I met this guy a long time ago, we kept in touch then I came out here last summer for a week to visit him. Then we fell in loooooooove. So I decided to come back to see him again…”

Security Guard: “Oh….so is he your Boooooyfriend??”

Me: “Hmmm….blush…smile….”

Security Guard: “Ohh…so no, but you WANT him to be….hehehe”

Me: “Blush…smile…yahhhhh…”

Security Guard: “Ok, well lets take you to the next step.”

Muahhahahahahaha…..

Then the first security guard comes back to take me to the table, all the while planting little “6” stickers all over me and my bags. When you fly out of Ben Gurion, the security guards give you numbers from 1-6–depending on your security threat. Because I showed up with a Palestinain guy, they gave me a 6. ughhh
So they take me around the regular first security check of metal detector and x-ray machine to a big table area where they open up all of your luggage, take out EVERY SINGLE ITEM, dust it for gun powder residue, X-ray EACH AND EVERY item. All the while there are 5 more security guards asking me the same original questions. BAH

So I try to keep calm as they are x-raying my underwear….ughhh….

Then they take me towards the “little room”…..AHHHHHH!

A female soldier leads me into the back room where there are smaller rooms that look like changing rooms. The risks in this room are strip search and worse, cavity search. I had a friend who taught english at An-Najah University in Nablus (West Bank) and when she went out of Ben Gurion, they cavity searched her. AHH…

So Im praying hardcore….and luckily since I dressed up like a typical Jerusalem girl with leggings, long shirt, and boots they dont need to strip search me…and thanks be to God they didnt cavity search me either. She just patted me down (for the hundredth time already) then x-rayed my coat and scarf in another room…

Finally she comes back and leads me back to the table where they are inspecting and searching my computer. Luckily I have some computer-savy friends in Ramallah who helped me hide all my “suspcious” files such as my Amr Diab music and pictures anywhere outside of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

So they didnt find anything and the computer turned on without exploding so as far as they were concerned I was good to go.

Another security guard came over while I was repacking all of my shit, and asked whether I wanted an aisle or a window seat. I almost laughed it was so ridiculous. I told her window…she came back with aisle seats all the way to Seattle. And the cold part is that on my flight the window seat was open next to me. Bitch. Hahaha.

So anyways after I stuffed everything back in my luggage, another security guard escorted me to my gate–which was just about to close. But I made it on thank God.

In London, I still had all these 6 stickers all over my stuff and therefore got all the “random” security checks. Then I ripped off those damn stickers.

Still, In seattle, in the US….I got almost as bad security checks as in Israel. It was ridiculous. As the guard was looking through all the items in my bag, she found a pinecone I got from Nazareth and forgot was in my bag.

“Whats THIS??”

“Umm…its a pinecone.”

Yeah thats pretty much my experience with security checks from Israel to Seattle….

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