Another great vacation ends with that bitter taste that only airports are very good at giving. Every time I’m surprised about being surprised again, I think that I’m already used to the humiliation, that I’ve already seen and heard it all, but no, this time it is even worse.
At the Zracna Luka Rijeka airport in Croatia before my return flight to Israel on an Israeli airline, as always, once the Israeli security saw our passports (and saw that weird combination of an Arab and a Jew traveling together, god forbid), the smile faded from their faces and the suspicious questions began.
They started with sentences like “wait a second I need to check something” and they go and talk to another security guard, and then to another, and then as always they wait for the manager, and separate between my friend and I.
Then they started the so-called security questioning by the local security manager, and this time the level of ignorance and racism were preposterous.
Here are some of the pearls of wisdom of the security questioning that too many people face flying to Israel:
-Him: So how come you’re Israeli when you’re from East Jerusalem?
-Me: What do you mean?
-Him: People from East Jerusalem don’t have Israeli citizenship.
-Me: Right, for some reason people who are born in this country from a specific ethnicity don’t get the citizenship automatically. But you can ask.
-Him: So? You asked and they gave you citizenship? Just like that?
-Me: They shouldn’t have?
-Him: No, I just want to understand how the process works.
-Me: I asked and they gave me.
-Him: Nice...I see here that you were born in Spain.
-Me: Yes I was.
-Him: How? -Me: How what? How I was born in Spain? -Him: Yes.
-Me: My mother was pregnant, and then she gave birth in Spain.
-Him: What do you mean? -Me: My parents lived in Spain for over 40 years.
-Him: Wow, cool, they’re still there? -Me: No.
-Him: Where are they? -Me: In Jerusalem.
-Him: In Jerusalem-Jerusalem or east Jerusalem?
-Me: Is east Jerusalem not in Jerusalem?
-Him: You know what I mean…
-Me: I know exactly what you mean.
-Him: So? -Me: East Jerusalem-Jerusalem.
-Him: And you’re still in touch with them.
-Me: Of course.
-Him: And you go and visit them? -Me: Yep.
-Him: Nice, and how do they accept the fact that…
-Him: You know, that you’re…
-Me: Gay? -Him: Yes.
-Me: Is that very important to the security of the flight and for the security of the State of Israel?
-Him: Ahem… What do you mean?
-Me: I wonder, if the fact that my parents accept me or not is important right now, in this situation?
-Him: Ahem… One second please wait here...Do you have something in a package in your luggage?
-Me: What do you mean?
-Him: Something closed in a package?
-Him: You didn’t go shopping? -Me: I did.
-Him: So you have packages.
-Me: I have bags of clothes.
-Him: So you might have something in the bags.
-Me: What? -Him: There is a possibility that where you shopped they put something in the bags.
-Me: In H&M they put something in my bags? -Him: Do you have a bomb in your luggage? -Me: LOL – No.
-Him: Okay...What do you do? -Me: Insurance.
-Him: As what? -Me: Data and statistics manager.
-Him: Nice, where? Do you have an employee card?
-Me: No, why would I need to bring my employee card on a vacation abroad?
-Him: No, but how can you prove that you work in insurance?
-Me: I have a business card.
-Him: Oh! Your telemarketers keep calling me and sending me e-mails all the time, even after I unsubscribed from your mailing list.
-Me: Give me your ID number and I’ll ask them to not to bother you anymore.
-Him: It’s your fault right? You’re the data manager.
-Me: It’s from the marketing department.
-Him: Wait a minute, it says Zizo here, what is Zizo? -Me: Zizo is my nickname, almost everybody calls me Zizo.
-Him: Really? Why? To sound less Arab?
-Me: What do you mean?
-Him: So they think you’re Jewish, you know, Zizo is not Ziyad…
-Me: You know someone Jewish called Zizo?
-Him: No, but you know…
-Me: Actually, it was my grandmother who gave me the nickname, a Muslim Arab woman, and so they called me in school in Spain, and then here everybody kept calling me that. And again, is that important to the safety of the flight?
-Him: I need to ask everything I have to.
-Me: So we’re staying here till tomorrow? Because I have work tomorrow and I need to know if I need to tell them I’ll be late.
-Him: Lol, you’re funny.
-Me: No, I’m not.
Him: Well, now after checking-in go directly right there, do not stop and do not talk to anyone on your way and don’t take anything from anyone.
AND ALL this was only a small part of it. There is no evidence that anyone has ever been arrested or stopped from carrying out terrorism by these often invasive, racist and harassing questions that millions of travelers, including Israeli citizens from the Arab minority, have been subjected to over the decades. While I understand the need for security, the racial profiling harms innocent people. The questioning has outlived its use, there are better methods to ensure security. Over the years many famous Arabs in Israel, such as Supreme Court Justice Salem Jubran’s daughter and actress Mira Awad have suffered from this profiling. It is time that its efficacy be examined and the racism and discrimination stop.
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