In my 10 years of flying in and out of Israel, I have come to practically memorize the script of the security personnel as well as the appropriate responses to their queries.
On my way to Madrid airport, I was already feeling I will have some troubles with the standard questions, now that I have Brazil added to the life story I will have to tell them.
One line of questioning I hate the most is the one where they try to establish loyalty to the country through asking leading questions about one’s jewish identity. They see I was born in Russia, and then ask me when have I immigrated to Israel, how have I learned Hebrew, etc. Then they moved to my parents, and where do they live, imploring about their connection to the local Jewish community. At this stage, I normally get really annoyed, ask if I can show them my Israeli ID that states I am Jewish and they normally leave me alone.
Not this time. The lovely agent, Ziv, continued asking me more and more questions about my parents and if they celebrate holidays, keep any mitzvot (“hmm, no? Me neither”). After his disappointment with my negative responses, he moved to my personal practices and lack of follow up with the ways of the Torah at my exile in Brazil. As I once again proved to be a failure of jew, despite all of his sympathy, I was then sent down to the dungeon of personal security search, where a bunch of 20 somethings in uniforms, gladly searched every millimeter of my personal belongings, scanning every item I had individually in the bomb detection machine. I was getting really pissed off, and they were getting nervous when I kept asking why I was flagged, especially when they found my Israeli ID and were told I was not asked for it during initial screening. They also detected some very suspicious substance in my luggage – guava jam- and decided for security purposes to pack it in a special box, along with some chocolates. To be sent separately from my suitcase.
After this circus finished, I demanded to see the supervisor, a wish they finally granted, I assume because they felt bad. After all, I was one of their peoples (this is also the reason why I felt so aggrevated at the first place. Had this been USA, I would have silently accepted, attributing to American idiocity of politically correct random searches).
The supervisor, a handsome, well educated man, named Rimon ( parmogranade!!!), arrived shortly after. We had an adult conversation after which he apologized for my bad experience and time wasted, thanked me for my honesty and hinted at the fact that I was completely right at my assessment. He asked me when I was coming again, and told me to ask for him personally. I was still very pissed off but at least I felt that he honestly cared, especially when I mentioned that I plan to avoid flying El Al in the future, from concern of this to be happening again. We silently agreed that next time I should be smarter and say I celebrate Passover. I liked this Rimon guy. He gave me some hope about customer service in my country.
As I was finally being personally escorted to the fully boarded plane, I heard my companion’s walkie-talkie saying in a harsh tone: “who is the person who handled that girl?”.
Someone is gonna get heard really bad…
Lessons learned: don’t fly El Al. If you have to fly El Al, since your only other option is Aeroflot or something along those lines, have all of your facts ready to explain why you love Israel, the jewish people, anything jewish, and how this also applies to your relatives, friends or anyone you come to close contact with. Otherwise, be ready to take the chance of spending an hour or more in a room, with a bunch of suspecious looking people people while three strangers are touching all of your stuff.
Despite all of this crap, I still love my country. I guess that El Al isn’t so bad either. They had Rimon, then the flight attendants were super nice and friendly. They gave me hummus on the plane, convinced me to eat my meal and asked 3 times if I am sure that I don’t want my pita bread. Much better than the Iberia robot jail wardens I encountered on the flight from Rio to Madrid. One always have to look at the bright side in life.