Thursday, January 04, 2007

Safe Arrival, and yet Incomplete

I made the mistake of flying with the Israeli air carrier, El Al. Supporting the Israeli economy is one bad mark on my record. Foolishly, I assumed that the 'security' examination I would receive at the airport would be no different from the trials and tribulations I have become accostumed to during my travels to Palestine.

My flight was scheduled to leave JFK at midnight. I arrived early, another mistake. The more time you give to the authorities, the more they will take from you. And take they did. I sat through a two hour interrogation, and then simply sat for another two hours while they had my bags, passport and cellphone in some basement office. They rummaged through my things, as usual. But in a new twist, they made two surprising decisions regarding my belongings. The first was patently ridiculous and a poor attempt at intimidation and discomfort-making. They would not allow me to travel with my jacket. That's right, folks, my parka. I asked why and they predictably responded, "We cannot tell you. It is a security secret of the State of Israel." Ok, whatever. So they sent my jacket home, to my home in the states.

The second move was much more understandable, at least from their insane perspective. They took out everything from my suitcase, packed it into another suitcase that they gave to me ("This one is a nice bag," the woman said---as if that were consolation!), and took my laptop, my cd player, and a travel mug. These three items were apparently security risks. They were repacked into my original suitcase. The authorities said that they would undergo some more examination at another security location in NYC, to be shipped on the next flight to Tel Aviv. Well, I called the airport in Tel Aviv this morning and---surprise!---they have no record of my baggage even existing. I wonder if my jacket will ever make it home...

Besides this utter BS, I was treated to not one, but two strip searches. The second was clearly aimed to humiliate me because I had not left their sight during the two hours between searches. I was made to drop my pants. Lucky girls, those El Al security agents.

Anyway I've made it to Jerusalem. The baggage problem is quite an annoyance for me now because I cannot make my way into Nablus until it is settled. Thus I will stay here in Jerusalem probably through the weekend. So that is four days of missed work opportunity. The Israelis are quite good at stealing people's time. Time is for Palestinians one of the most severe casualties of the occupation. This is simply my visitor's taste.

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