Sunday, 29 July 2007

Coming back home

If anyone needed any proof that Israel's trying to hide what's going on within the OPT, surely they need look no further than the departures procedure at Ben Gurion airport?

Any country who feels the need to filter departing tourists, analysing the purpose of their visit to classify their "risk" factor, must have something to hide. What other reason can they have for the searching of your luggage, questioning (depending on the contents of the luggage), strip-searching and escorting passengers to their flights? I accept that both drugs and international terrorism are big issues, but no other country - not even the US - goes to this extent.

I was obviously deemed lower risk than many of my other team members, escaping into the departure lounge with just a bag search. They found all my Sabeel papers, but didn't read any of them. They seemed far more concerned with my various chargers and travel hair dryer!

My flight back to London was full of a group of people who all seemed to know each other. They'd been to a wedding near Tel Aviv and were now returning to north London. From what I could see from my seat, there were possibly 2 Arabs on the flight. For some reason, I felt an unreasonable sense of anger that virtually nobody else on the flight had seen what I'd seen, and instead had had a rather lovely beach holiday - far away from the checkpoints and refugee camps. This un-nerved me because I wasn't sure who or what my anger was directed at. It wasn't at the people themselves - I grew up in north London and had friends from the same Jewish community - it was more at the state that could exist in two so very different ways.

Back at Heathrow there was a ridiculously long queue for passport control, but I wasn't in a hurry so I just joined the line and waited. As we moved ahead the queue became disjointed and a family straggled along it. The mother rather rudely pushed me aside and went in front crying "I must go in front, that's my family!". I thought back to Qalandiya and the family who'd been separated when the checkpoint shut - there was no chance of that happening here, so why the panic? But they'd have no idea about places like Qalandiya.

I thought back to the promise I made myself whilst waiting at Qalandiya: that I would try not to stress out and get angry when the Jubilee line went down on my commute to and from work, and that I wouldn't moan about long queues. Yet here I was, 10mins after landing, getting annoyed by people in a queue. It really doesn't take long for things to be normal again.

So I stood calmly, conscious that this was purely a formality - no one was going to be turned away and there were no turnstiles to get through.

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