December 12, 2009
Well, I’ve been home for more than a week now… and my life seems to be somewhat back to “normal”. I’ve jumped back into church activities and will probably make myself available to volunteer for Hospice next week. I also start with a personal trainer next week… in the spring of 2011 I plan on making a pilgrimage walk from the French Pyrenees to Santiago on the Northern Atlantic coast of Spain. This is a walk of about 800 km, up and down mountainous terrain, that takes about a month to complete. Some people have been known to “get up off the couch” and just do it… I think it would be a better idea to train my poor ol’ body up a little beforehand!
In the meantime, I feel a real “purge” coming on… my “Asian Zen” décor (which has never QUITE reached “Zen”) has turned the corner onto “MUCH too cluttered” and I need to get rid of things to feel more centered. The trick is finding the time!
When I last blogged, I was still in Israel and had recently met the Door Keeper of the Holy Sepulcher. The man STILL gives me the “warm, fuzzies” just thinking about how gentle and kind he was. I had gone back and visited with him several times after our first meeting and each time he greeted me with a warmth like none I have experienced before. This man was awesome!
My trip home was certainly an adventure! I took a “sherut” or shared taxi from the Jaffa Gate to the airport. I was one of the first to be picked up about 6:30 PM. We wound our way around different Jerusalem neighborhoods picking up additional passengers along the way… an interesting mix of tourists, visiting family of Israelis, an orthodox Jew and Abdullah, a man of Palestinian descent, living in Dubai and traveling with a United States passport. I struck up a conversation with Abdullah and a visiting Grandmother right away. Abdullah had come to Israel to visit with family and check on some property that his family still owns, but to which they have had very limited access, due to the political climate. We needed to cross a checkpoint along the highway to get to the airport. At checkpoints like this, Israeli soldiers typically stick their heads into the taxi, look at everyone’s faces, maybe ask one or two people a question about their travels plans, and then wave everyone through. In this case, however, we were asked to pull over to the side of the road and Abdullah was asked to leave the van. I was sitting on the side closest to the interrogation, so I was able to watch the whole thing. The Israeli soldier WAS polite (I have heard reports that many times they are not) but questioned Abdullah quite extensively about his friends, family, time in Israel, travel plans, etc. before letting him back on the van.
Little did I know that within the hour I would be the object of similar intense questioning! Let’s face it…. I don’t tell a nice, neat, “normal” tale of a typical tourist on vacation in the Holy Land! On arrival at Ben Gurian Airport the initial questioning went something like this:
How long have you been in Israel?
Is this your first visit?
You are traveling alone?
You are not on a tour?
Do you have family here?
Who do you know here?
“No one…. Some casual friends in Tel Aviv.”
You came here alone for the first time and stayed THREE MONTHS?
Where did you stay?
“I had a rented apartment in Rehavia.”
REHAVIA? Why would you stay in REHAVIA?
“Because my Tel Aviv friend said I HAD to stay in Rehavia.” (FYI Rehavia is a VERY good neighborhood… the Israeli Prime Minister lives there. It’s not a USUAL first time tourist place!)
[Some question in Hebrew]
You don’t speak Hebrew?
You have NEVER spoken Hebrew?
Not even as a little girl?
“No… I’m not religious and I’m not Jewish.”
Why did you come to Israel?
“To have fun and meet awesome people… which I did!”
Would you mind stepping over here for a little while?
From this point on, I got “special” treatment! I was asked those same questions again and more by a “higher level” security person… and then another and another! My bags were sent through the first screening and specially “coded” for further scrutiny. I was escorted, with my bags, to a secondary screening area… where my bags were rifled through and each piece of my “stuff” was taken out and examined by hand. Several pieces were sent through a secondary bomb screening machine and in the long run two pieces were taken away to a separate facility for further screening and didn’t return for 20 minutes. All the while I was being asked the same type of security questions over and OVER again!
As the time ticked along and it was getting to be close to an HOUR that I had been being examined… I was getting a LITTLE concerned! I must have been asked the same questions a dozen different times in different ways. I stayed consistent with my answers with only one exception…. My friends in Tel Aviv had gone from “casual friends” to being “my really good friends in Tel Aviv… she’s an Israeli judge and he’s a lawyer!”
I don’t think that actually made any difference. In the end, they decided I was “okay” and I escaped without having to submit to the dreaded “full cavity search!”
I’m home now… Home is good! I had been thinking about running away again and spending three months in Thailand (three months seems to be a good travel period for me), but I decided I had too many things that needed my attention here. I will stick around for at least a few months. I might run off to Thailand in the fall, who knows.
As always… Life’s a trip!