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My name is Rachel, and Israel thinks I’m a security threat

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My name is Rachel. I am a Jew. I don’t practice, but my grandmothers are Jewish and I identify as a Jew, so that means I am a Jew. 

My name is Rachel. I study Religious and Middle Eastern Studies. My research focuses on the Holocaust and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. I have studied in Morocco and the Czech Republic. I know a little bit of Arabic and I hope I can learn more soon. 

My name is Rachel. I support human rights. I work at a non-profit that strives to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity. 

My name is Rachel and in the summer of 2019 I was interrogated for an hour and a half when trying to get on a flight from New Jersey to Tel Aviv. Over ten members of Israeli security working for the Israeli airline, El Al, took turns questioning me. My life, my friendships, my studies, and my family were picked apart. They mired on my Arab and Arab-American friends, the relationships I made in Morocco, and my research. I was partially strip searched and my entire body was poked and prodded with hands and scanners. Every single one of my belongings was confiscated and examined behind closed doors. I was yelled at by a large group of men to give them my computer password. They refused to explain why they needed it and I had classified work documents on my desktop. Scared and overwhelmed after 90 minutes of questioning, I decided not to comply. I was then off-boarded from the plane. 

When I went back to the airport for a rebooking the next day, I was pulled from the security line within minutes. I was searched and questioned extensively again and had my luggage and passport labeled a level 6 out of 6 security threat for further examination and interrogation upon my arrival in Israel. Knowing that there was a good chance I could be turned around in Israel after enduring hours of questioning yet again, I decided not to try for a third time to get on a flight with an airline that had already made it clear they wanted nothing to do with me. 

I don’t know why I was treated like this. When I asked, they kept saying “security.” 

They were thought policing. They were racially profiling my friends. They were afraid of the fact that I wasn’t afraid of the Middle East and the people who call it home. 


For the purposes of my thesis research, I had wanted to go to both Israel and Palestine despite the significant issues I take with the actions of the Israeli government. I wanted to engage first-hand in the issues I spend every day studying. I was traveling with a research group that I trusted and respected, so I decided to put aside some of my political perspectives to accept a grant I was so lucky to have the opportunity to receive. 

However, by essentially denying me entry into the country, Israel asked me to boycott. And if they want me to, I will. 

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is non-violent. I am non-violent. And Israel, you can be non-violent too. 


I want to tell my story not because I want to get into Israel. In fact, I know that after I tell it, I probably never will. 

I want to tell my story because if this is what the Israeli government is doing to a 21-year-old American Jew doing research, what do you think they are doing to someone whose skin isn’t as white as mine? 

This was a challenging experience because interrogation is painful and draining and because I was barred from an opportunity I was looking forward to, but what about the people who are barred from ever seeing their home or family again? What about the people that live every day in fear of destruction, demolition, and death in the open-air prison we call the Gaza Strip? 


So today, I ask the Israeli government to reassess their priorities and security practices. I ask them to think critically about what the word “threat” means and what/whom constitutes as one. I don’t. My Arab and Arab-American friends don’t. A Palestinian 18-year-old visiting her grandparents doesn’t. In fact almost all Palestinians don’t. Just as almost all Americans, almost all French, German, Mexicans, Brazilians, Iranians, and Moroccans don’t. 

I also ask the US government to rethink their unequivocal support for Israel in the wake of the crimes against humanity they are committing and the unethical practices they are engaging in. I ask the US to think critically about what democracy means to our country and if the practices of Israel really deserve the label of “the gold standard for democracy in the Middle East” that is so often attributed to them. 

Finally, I call on the young people of America and of the world to be the change. We are the future and we have the power to change the systems that do so many worse things than block an innocent American Jew from getting on a flight to Israel. Support Palestine, support BDS, and support human rights because none of us should ever be considered a threat again for what we look like, what our name is, who our friends are, or where we have been. 


My name is Rachel. But if my name was Ruhee, would you be reading this story? If my name were Ruhee, would I even be able to tell it? 

I am sharing my story because we live in a world where not everyone can. I am sharing my story because something needs to change. 

For me.

But, more importantly, for the people who will never see their homes and families again.

In Palestine. And across the world.

Rachel Marandett

Rachel Marandett is a Pomona College senior majoring in Religious Studies with a concentration in global violence and a minor in Middle Eastern Studies. She has studied in both Morocco and the Czech Republic to help prepare for her thesis research on the Holocaust and Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a Pomona College Humanities Studio Fellow.

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18 Responses

  1. Ossinev on July 25, 2019, 12:34 pm

    Keep the faith Rachel and by that I mean:
    1) Stick to your true Judaism which is a religion of love and tolerance and continue to fight against the warped and evil Fascist Judaism which is practiced by Zionist Jews in Israel and in the US.
    2) Continue to to enlighten those people of your own age in the US and elsewhere about the
    human rights abuses and horrors being perpetrated by these Zionist Jews on innocent native Palestinians and those true and courageous Jews like yourself who dare to call out this Fascism.

  2. aloeste on July 25, 2019, 2:33 pm

    pro-israel flyers with El AL do not get flagged. so either your web presence is anti Israel or you exhibited suspicious behaviour. probably your name comes associated with left wing antizionist orgs.

    like all governments, israel is sworn to defend against her enemies foreign and domestic.

    • Talkback on July 26, 2019, 3:04 am

      aloeste: “like all governments, israel is sworn to defend against her enemies foreign and domestic.”

      Yep, same goes for all indigenous people fighting settler colonialism. Espeicially if it is even more destructive and racist than South Africa under Apartheid.

  3. Ismail on July 25, 2019, 5:50 pm

    Umm, aloeste, did you actually read Rachel’s very moving post? If so, you couldn’t have understood it, given your tone deaf reply.

    You can lead a horse to water,…..

  4. DaBakr on July 26, 2019, 1:31 am

    A) she definitely makes sure we know her name is Rachel.

    B) it is not true that pro Israel passengers “do not get flagged”. That’s total BS. But do passengers with red flags get flagged more often? I would think so. We basically have yet another droning complaint about the level of security that almost EVERYBODY that knows anything about traveling to Israel has known for decades. My friend traveling back from US to yeshiva was flagged, and he was sassy by his own admission and received a hard time.

    C) something doesn’t add up with Rachel. She said she was “deboarded” when she refused to give up her laptop password which implies she was allowed to board after her initial security check. Totally par for El AL and if she wasn’t aware before she was naive or, she is using MW as an outlet to Kvetch. There is a good reason ElAl hasn’t been attacked in years (including the attempt by terror cells in Africa to shoot down a passenger jet with a rocket launcher)

    D) good luck to her. She sounds bright.

    E) by the way, her name is Rachel in case you didn’t get that.

  5. btbLondon on July 26, 2019, 8:26 am

    Israel: the state not of all Jews but only of those who are not critical of it. What a sad and self-harming country.

  6. Jackdaw on July 26, 2019, 9:52 am

    Years ago, I was strip searched at Ben Gurion on an outbound flight.

    All is forgiven.

    • Talkback on July 26, 2019, 6:01 pm

      Wait until they raid your home and night, kidnap you (or your children, if you habe some), demolish your house or shoot you in the head.

  7. Joshua Laskin on July 26, 2019, 1:05 pm

    Our greatgrandparents knew anti-semitism in the Old World; our grandparents knew it in American cities; and our parents knew bits of it in American society; so, Israeli policies toward Palestinian Arabs were tolerated, because of an us-vs-them attitude. But, with the generations following, Zionism has this problem: Young Jews, lacking the us-v-them outlook, can’t be so easily indoctrinated with the Zionist belief that Israeli policies are necessary.

    Rachel is exactly the Jew that Israel needs. That’s so obvious, it’s quite bizarre they can’t see it. Beyond merely allowing her onto a flight, Israel should fund her research; facilitating the flooding of her young brain with as much direct info and experience as possible. It’s natural for youth to rebel; so, the quality of her anti-zionism is age-specific. Her understanding will inevitably evolve over time; so, the form and degree of her current criticism, is irrelevant to judging her status as friend or foe. With ‘enemies’ like her, Israel needs no ‘friends’.

    Her key quality, is wanting to know what’s really going on; caring enough to do the research. Bringing crowds of youth on birthright holidays, is a big waste of Zionist money; because they’re the dross–she’s the diamond; a spirit-resource the Jewish state can ill afford to squander.

    • Mooser on July 27, 2019, 12:10 pm

      “our grandparents knew it in American cities; and our parents knew bits of it in American society”

      Yeah, it was a long struggle after Pres. Washington told us precisely where we stood in America.

      • Joshua Laskin on August 2, 2019, 12:11 pm

        The founders were largely Masonic, whose founding myth concerns the builders of King Solomon’s Temple; who knows their occultist-elite idea of Jews? It would’ve been a different story among the hoi polloi. And some Jews putting their funds into the Revolution, likely didn’t hurt Washington’s inclusive attitude.

      • Mooser on August 2, 2019, 2:54 pm

        “who knows their occultist-elite idea of Jews?”

        After all, we’re not all eye-doctors.

  8. Ossinev on July 26, 2019, 1:33 pm


    “Years ago, I was strip searched at Ben Gurion on an outbound flight”

    Years ago I flew to the moon but there was so much junk on the surface I turned around and came straight back.

    • genesto on July 26, 2019, 3:42 pm


    • Mooser on July 27, 2019, 12:11 pm

      I tried that, but I ran out of gas (rocket fuel, that is, but it amounts to the same thing when the needle points to “E”) half-way to the moon and had to turn back.

  9. genesto on July 26, 2019, 3:50 pm

    I’ve often thought about gathering all of the people, like myself (banned from Israel because of my participation in the 2010 Gaza Freedom Flotilla for 10 years), deemed ‘existential threats’ by the increasingly paranoid state of Israel. The picture would include a lot of elderly people like myself, clerics, doctors, politicians, international humanitarian workers, Nobel Peace Prize winners, etc. You know, the very scum of society! Anyway, I would post this picture on Facebook so the world would be made aware of such a dangerous crew so as to protect their own countries from such nation destroyers as us.

    This would all be hilarious, if it wasn’t so horribly pathetic!

    • echinococcus on July 26, 2019, 6:08 pm

      It’s already past time to do that.

      • genesto on July 29, 2019, 12:59 pm

        Thanks. I just might follow through this time.

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