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Enemies

April 18, 2009                 Demonstrators, Ministry of Defence, Tel Aviv I almost felt sorry for the security man. Only at the end that is, as I boarded the plane and walked down the … Read More

By / April 30, 2009

April 18, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Demonstrators, Ministry of Defence, Tel Aviv

I almost felt sorry for the security man. Only at the end that is, as I boarded the plane and walked down the aisle and he came towards me and could not look me in the eye.

They’d taken all my things at the check-in and did not give them all back. The security supervisor, a tall balding man with blue eyes, thought I might be a terrorist. A woman asked some questions and then he came and took my passport, disappearing with it round the back of the super-duper El Al X-ray machine.

‘Wait here,’ the woman says.

‘Where’s my passport? Why has he taken it?’

‘Just wait here.’ She ushers me to one side, out of the way of the families and children standing in the security queue.

He’s back. Tall, balding and thin. He stoops, even over me.

‘But you live in England or in Israel? Where do you live?’ he asks, flicking through my passport.

‘London.’

‘When were you last in Israel? How often do you come?’

‘Like many other people’ – I stress the words many and other – ‘I make regular trips.’

He disappears again. The woman returns. ‘Because we’re delaying you,’ she says, ‘we’re going to check you in.’ Delaying? There’s a big queue behind me and I’m three hours early. Plenty of time.

‘I’m going to have to take these.’ She picks up my hand luggage and laptop.

‘Why?’

‘Security.’

‘When can I have them back?’

‘At the gate.’

‘You can search them, but I want to be there when you do.’

‘Your choice – we take it, or you don’t fly.’

OK, so they’ve got it all now. Passport, computer, notebooks, camera – all of it except my cash and phone. (And probably, says Eyal later, a copy of the computer hard drive too.) Oh, they’ve given my passport back, but it’s marked with a loud red tag.

At the gate, half an hour before we leave, everyone’s showing their passport and ticket again. I’m ushered to one side and asked to sit in a screened-off enclosure where I wait, alone.

A woman carries out further ‘security’ procedures, swabbing me for explosives, swabbing my shopping too. ‘May I?’ she says.

‘Yes, if you really think I’ve managed to construct a bomb in the duty free inside that whisky bottle – go ahead.’

How, exactly, is this necessary? Since I’ve already been X-rayed and stripped of all my belongings, how exactly could I have anything on me that would pose a risk to this flight? I ask this to the security man, when he arrives again, to talk to me after I object to the fact that they’re not going to be returning my ‘suspicious’ laptop charger; that my computer and notebooks – all of my personal possessions, in fact, are still nowhere to be seen.

‘Listen,’ he says. ‘I don’t have to be nice to you. I don’t have to talk to you. If that’s your attitude you can just sit there. I’m not going to talk to you. I don’t have to tell you anything.’

Nilly afterwards says that the Shabak puts a black dot by anyone’s name who’s left wing – known. ‘Who’s radical left, like you,’ she says. ‘They do it just to make you feel like shit, not because they really have to. You’re so suspicious, after all.’

When I get to the plane – finally, because it takes them another hour to find my ‘lost’ computer and bring it to the gate – and everyone’s sitting there and I’m feeling like some kind of freak, I can understand what a lifetime of bullying could do to your bitter soul.

Yet, as he passes me by for the last time and can not look me in the eye, I almost feel sorry for the security man, and I feel ashamed. What’s it come to? That’s what I want to say. What are we doing? Seventy years after our grandparents fled, yours and mine, we’ve turned each other into enemies. Suspicion and fear. How did we get to this place?

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