My flight from New York lands just before 5:00 pm at Ben Gurion airport near Tel Aviv. I gather my belongings and head towards passport control. The entry hall is surprisingly empty. I’ve seen the lines before the passport agents run 20 and 30 deep with travelers before, but today there is nearly no waiting. I am called by the border control agent to approach his kiosk and am asked for my passport. The agent is an older man; he is joking with the younger female agent in the kiosk next to him as I approach.
I give him my passport. He glances at it and asks me one question:
His tone is slightly puzzled, with a touch of amusement.
I reply, “Yup.”
I’m anticipating another question, but he gives me my entry permit and I’m on my way. I’m outside the airport by 5:30, looking for my transport to Jerusalem.
Over the last several years some of the most important stories we’ve run in Mondoweiss have been people’s nightmarish experiences in Ben Gurion airport. Most have been Palestinian Americans sharing their stories of being interrogated, strip searched, humiliated, detained and prevented from visiting their homeland. Other stories have been aid workers barred from entering to help Palestinian communities under occupation. And there have also been stories of students and even musicians who have been kept out of Israel/Palestine on the whim of the young Israeli solider or border agent. Each of these stories are shocking in their own way, and each serve as a microcosm of the system of apartheid that currently governs life in Israel/Palestine.
But to me these stories become even more disturbing when compared to the experience of many others, mostly Jews and white Americans and Europeans, who travel through Ben Gurion without a care, or an interrogation.