Israeli Security's Response to my Blog....
My Response back to the representative from Israeli Security...
Dear Ms. Beck Helit-Tamara,
I sincerely want to thank you for taking the time to write me back. I certainly did not expect a response as I did not intend my blog to be shared with anyone but friends and associates, but I do appreciate you taking the time to respond.
To give you a little more perspective about me, I currently fly around 125,000 miles each year and have logged around 1,500,000 miles in my flight travels over the last 20 years. My travel has included more than 40 countries around the world. That being said, and understanding that Ben Gurion airport has a reputation for intense security procedures (although London Heathrow comes in high on my scale as well), I was still shaken by my experience at security and needed to write about it for my own sake.
My reference to “Guantanamo” was a feeling that I felt at the time and was not intended to offend, but only expressed my nervousness and concern and I equated it with something we in the US fear. The references to the heritage of my name were unwelcome and after my my lengthy and emotional visit to Yad Vashem, I was shocked that Israeli's of all people would condone racial profiling by government employees. I have endured countless security checks in my travels and none of them has caused me so much anxiety.
Up to the point where my computer, camera and lenses were forced into checked baggage I was understanding, albeit annoyed with the procedure, but I still don’t accept that this particular action was necessary and it put more than $10,000 of my gear in jeopardy. The personal search was humiliating, but I understand why it is imposed at various times.... That doesn’t make it any less humiliating though. I much prefer the air sniffer in use in the US now for secondary checks and would even prefer the new “see all” x-ray machines that are on the market to a physical body search like prisoners get.
The security staff was polite and doing their jobs and I could see a reflection of sympathy in their eyes for my plight. The issue with the white boxes and when I could or could not touch/carry them would have gone much better if the procedure was adequately explained to me. My anxiety was mostly from a lack of information. The security people would pull away and have a conversation in Hebrew and then not tell me anything. On the rare occasion when I have been selected for secondary screening elsewhere in the world, I was typically kept politely informed regarding the process and my anxiety level was much lower. I don’t know why all the explanations of the “additional security procedures” were vague during my experience in Israel, but it would go a long way in relieving anxiety to have them explained more thoroughly.
If Dead Sea Mud is such a security risk, I am surprised that you haven’t let the people who sell it know so foreign people who buy it could have shipped it home rather than endure confiscation and escalation at the airport. Without that few dollars worth of Soil, I doubt I would have reached the security “risk” level I did. I would NEVER have bought it if I had known it would have elevated my risk at the airport. It is well understood that flammables, spray cans, guns, etc. are not to be in baggage although I could not find a list of baggage prohibited items on the (www.iaa.gov.il) web site like I can find on the TSA web site (http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/airtravel/prohibited/permitted-prohibited-items.shtm). Why don’t you publish a list, and if it is published somewhere, I apologize but I could not find it. If there is a list, is Dead Sea Mud on that list?
In closing, I realize that security is a way of life there in Israel and that you live with the concern for it daily and have become accustom to it. Many others are not accustom to it and do not see it as a normal day to day fact of life. Have pity on those of us who are not accustom to it and keep us better informed about what is going on during security procedures.