I arrived in Tel Aviv after a 10 hour trip from JFK in New York. The adventure started early in the trip as John and I attempted to check in with El Al airlines in JFK’s terminal 4. Our flight from Atlanta had landed much earlier than the flight departure time, because I had heard how rigorous El Al’s check-in could be.
After asking a lot of questions, the security guard selected both of us for special screening. We had to give him all of our belongings, and come back shortly before boarding time. We couldn’t even clear security first, so we wandered around for several hours before finally coming back to clear baggage. Then, I was searched, taking off shoes and socks, then finally allowed to leave. However, we had to be escorted all the way to the plane door.
When we finally arrived at 1:30 PM in Tel Aviv, John made it through passport control just fine. I answered the standard questions, the agent flipped through my passport, and then started making telephone calls and speaking in Hebrew. I figured this could not be good. She wouldn’t even look up at me as she fumbled through papers. I kept silent.
Finally, a really really really big guy came up behind me, she handed me my passport, and he said, “COME.” I did. I followed him to where he said to sit as he took my passport into some back room. I sat. And sat. I didn’t even know if John saw that I was detained, and I also had someone from our agency in Tel Aviv waiting as well.
Finally, I was asked to go into a back room by a representative of the Ministry of the Interior. I went through another series of questions. Then, the woman looked me in the eye and said, “Sir, you have to know that you have matching characteristics of someone whom the Israeli government is searching.”
I said, “What characteristics?”
She said, “Not good.”
Shortly after this, she let me go, a bit paranoid, but glad to finally arrive in Israel. We arrived at our hotel, the Sheraton Tel Aviv, where I had a room on the 15th floor (1510), with a balcony overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. After showering up, we headed to our work.