Or the time that a cop interrogated me in an airport

Israel by the author

Once again, the summer saw me traveling all by myself. It was becoming a  tradition. Spend at least a week alone in some new country while trying to use this time as an opportunity to clear my mind of all the day-to-day bullshits. And there’s nothing like an adventure in an airport.

Because I like to know new places, but I’m at the same time scared shitless to do an out-of-box adventure, I only traveled through Europe until this. 2014 was the year that I decided to go out of my comfort zone.

And when we go to a foreign country we have to take care of the visas and all that bureaucratic shit. Being European and traveling mostly in European Union – open borders and all that – I only used a passport a couple of times. So, when when I went to Israel I made my homework:

What do I need?

A passport, and a visa, but being Portuguese we can ask for the visa at the airport. It lasts for 3 months and you’re in with no problems.

With this information, from the Israel Embassy, I haven’t looked for anything else. – Should've google it.

First of all I took an interesting route.

Most people look at me weirdly when I explain how I find cheap flights.

It’s now a mark of my travels, I travel in the cheapest way possible. Because I discovered somewhere along the line, that traveling directly from Lisbon is always super expensive. Therefore I became the best friend of low-cost traveling to anywhere in Europe to be able to find a cheap flight to anywhere I wanted to go.

The problem in Portugal is that you can fly cheaply to a couple of places but unfortunately not everywhere. What I normally do, is fly to a city that has cheap connections for where I wanna go (either Geneva or London mainly) and then fly from there to my destination.

This was my first “mistake” I went from here to Geneva and from Geneva to Tel Aviv. I’ll explain why this was a mistake later on. For now, I’ll guide you through my adventure to get to Israel.

After a couple of days enjoying Geneva (is way too expensive, but at least is one of those places where I don’t need to look for a place to stay), I went to the airport at the beginning of my first solo adventure outside of Europe.

But let’s go back to this story.

So at the end of June of 2014, I was entering the Geneva airport with some jeans ripped up in hundreds of places, a bright pink shirt, and a backpack looking for the gate for the flight to Telaviv.

Everything went normal at first. Passing security, going to my boarding gate, all the normal steps to go into a flight. 

My surprises began when I needed to pass a second security check to enter the waiting room for my flight. since I was going to Israel it seems that the security is a bit more strict.

That meant that even to enter the room assigned to our gate, we had to go through security once again. This was not the traditional security where you pass through a metal detector and have your bag through some kind of x-ray machine. This screening was much more detailed. They even used something that I imagine is used to search for explosives residues, since they use something to scrub our hands, shoes, belts, and some specific parts of the backpack. Just this was something that put me thinking “What the hell was I thinking for going alone to Israel?”.

One would think that this would give a little more security to a chicken shit like me that has a death scare of flying.

But obviously, not only that did not happen but I also was able to bring to the front of my mind all the unconscious bias that I try so hard to fight.

As soon as I go through this second part of security I enter a room where we needed to wait to be boarded in. That was my first encounter with a reality a bit different from mine. In this room, waiting to board the plane beside me were a lot of Arabs, and orthodox jews (and I seem to not be able to tell this story without showing some of my bias even after all these years). Both of them seemed to be praying before entering the plane. And again, although one tries to be as open-minded as possible, the truth, is that there are some bias that are always on the back of our mind, even more, when you’re not used to seeing people different from the ones from your sheltered little socio-cultural bubble.

But I was trying to tell a story that always makes me laugh when I remember it.

The worst of all was the flight, I never had so much turbulence as in this flight.

Here I was on a plane to Telaviv, thinking to myself why did I decided to do this trip alone, when I’m going to one of the most religious countries in the world. it is the birthplace of most of all the big religions.

I haven’t even landed, and I already see so many religious signs. One of them was seated right next to me, a very young couple, probably in their early 20’s that seemed to be orthodox jews. And myself being a liberal feminist unable to understand how someone so young was able to live like that – bias, I know.

And here I am again, running away from the laughing part of the story.

I don’t know if you guys know – and I’m not sure if this is the correct explanation, but I’ll accept it – when it is too hot, there are air pockets formed that can cause a lot of turbulence. So imagine how it is to land in Israel.

And now after all these details, let’s put it all together: 

  • it’s the early afternoon, so the peak temperature hour, and that meant a lot of turbulence
  • my mind is at its peak moment of bias. I had gone through a lot of security to enter the plane. Which instead of giving me any kind of reassurance, only made me think about why they do it
  • I had a young orthodox couple seated next to me.

This last detail could be overseen, but, and there’s always a but, when we were about to land my problem was not that they were orthodox, was that she was not able to go through the turbulence without throwing up, so for the last 10 minutes of this flight I could only think:

… look at the window … don’t look at her or else you’re also going to throw up.

That was definitely not a good moment for me. Stuck in a corner between a window and a girl throwing up.

This was the state I was in when I landed in Israel. You would think the daily adventures would end here.

After walking for ages to the passport control, I had to wait for about 30 m to finally get to my turn.

And that’s when I started thinking that I wasn’t even going to enter the country. This was my first time out Schengen, for those of you who are not Europeans, it means that for the first time, I had to go through passport control.

And here started some of the longest hours of all my travels.

It all begin with the girl in the passport control starting to asking me questions:

  • Why are you coming to Israel? Tourism
  • Where are you staying? Hostel in Florentine neighborhood
  • Where are you coming from? Geneva
  • Where are you from? Portugal (and that’s why I think that going through Geneva caused some “lost time”)
  • How long will you stay? 5 days
  • Where are you going after? Barcelona (everything is cheaper than coming directly to Portugal)

And so it went for 5 or 10 minutes. A bunch of questions on why was I there, why was I alone, what I was planning to do. And then after questioning all this, the girl looks at me and says:

“I’ll keep you’re passport here and I need you to go to that room over there please.”

And, I obviously started panicking, but went to the room she told me too.

So, as you’ve been reading so far, I’m afraid of everything, I love conspiracy theories, and I imagine the worst case scenarios in every situation.

As you can imagine, as soon as the girl sent me to that room, a bunch of ideas started going through my mind.

  • Why are they doing this?
  • Won’t they let me enter Israel?
  • What the f*ck is going to happen to my vacation if they won’t let me enter?
  • Will they send me back to Switzerland or Portugal?
Here I was going to all these scenarios through my mind and I still haven’t gotten to that room.

Well, as soon as I get there –  a girl with ripped jeans and sleeveless bright pink shirt and a backpack – a lot of more ideas start going through my mind. And the reason why?

My second cultural shock of the day.

Entering that room, there was a young western woman, and everyone else was Arab guys. And then me, a blonde European looking woman, with a pair of ripped jeans and a somewhat air of someone who works to some NGO or something like that. I convinced myself that this was the reason why they made me wait.

For me it seemed that I spent a few hours there.

But again, it could be a mix between my memories and the weird experience that I had there that could have changed my perception of time.

During this time, not only had I the same questions going through my mind, but I was also wondering why did I get picked up to wait there. Everyone around me seemed to be there due to the Israel-Arab conflict – lots of Arab men –  while I was a complete contrast of that. I still don’t know why was I there even after all these years.

And then, after all these hours – I’m at least sure that it was more than 1 hour. After seeing some of the guys leaving in direction of other room, and some more guys entering the room where I was, a woman called my name.

And there I went again through the exact same questions that the girl from the passport control asked me. But it did start with a piece of different information:

I’m a cop.

Ok. (obviously, if you have my f*cking passport, and I’m still out of Israel officially)

After that, the questions began again (and were exactly the same):
  • Why are you coming to Israel? Tourism
  • Where are you staying? Hostel in Florentine neighborhood
  • Where are you coming from? Geneva
  • Where are you from? Portugal
  • How long will you stay? 5 days
  • Where are you going after? Barcelona

Ok, everything seems fine, here’s your passport, and here’s your visa.

And I was in Israel, after over 2 hours in the airport. They finally let me in the country.

But I will never forget, that to finally get to Israel I went through:

  • 2 security checks – this did keep happening throughout all the trip.
  • a girl throwing up just on the seat next to me. More than that I was on the window seat, and we were landing. I didn’t have an option to run from it.
  • And a couple of hours trying to explain that I was just a weird girl that loves to travel alone without a lot of plans. And that I was not planning any revolution or terrorist attack or whatever they were thinking about.

If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, just keep calm answer what they’re asking you and wait.

Did you ever find yourself stopped at a border?

PS: I don’t have pictures of the airport. Or else I would definitely get stuck out of Israel.

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