Customs Officer: “Where are you going?”
Me: “To see family”
Me: “Because they’re my family”
CO: “Hmmmmmm, why are you in Israel?”
CO: “Did you pack your own bag?”
CO: “Do you have a weapon?”
CO: “Why are you travelling alone?”
CO: “Take off your shoes… And your coat”
CO: “Give me your passport”
CO: “Put down your bag”
CO: “You know Hebrew, girl?”
CO: “I’ve never seen this passport before”
CO: “Fine you can pass”
Above are a few excerpts from, what could be called, the conversations I had at Ben Gurion airport this morning. Now I am, what some call, a patient person but everyone has their limits. I understand the need for security, and I understand the value of safety. I understand the fear that accumulates through hearing about the multitudes of airline faults and I know that this fear can only be subdued by rigorous inspection. But I do not understand, condone, or agree with inspecting certain members of the public more thoroughly than others based on snap decisions, first impressions, or stereotypes.
Why Mr customs officer did you search my bag? Why Ms inspector are you patting me down… Again? Is because I’m too short, because I’m alone. Is it because I didn’t smile at you when I first saw you, or did I smile too much. Do my baggy clothes make you suspicious, maybe my red backpack is too provocative. Do the piercings in my ears, or my blonde hair label me as dangerous? I stopped to tie my shoe, that earnt me one more bag search. I bought a bottle of water, then was asked to take my shoes off again. I charged my laptop, they patted me down. I breathed and they stared. This is not an article about race, this is not for your sympathy. Simply, this is an article aimed to make you think- how many of our actions are undertaken based on predisposed ideals. How often is a person judged on their appearance and how often do people fight so hard to dispel rumors of discrimination that they actually begin to belittle anyone not in this “minority”.
This day that I spent in the airport made me think about these things, perhaps it is a mundane occurrence. But it inspired me to become conscious. I will still smile at you Mr security guard, because I don’t care if you think I’m suspicious; I have nothing to hide. You may have been the one to pick me from a crowd, but you are not the one who designed this society. This society that urges you not to trust other people, this same society that tells you that you are not trusting enough. I hope you quelled your fears with these security checks and I hope you’re not scared of me anymore. I hope you feel better about your day after these searches, because at least then my time would have been useful for something. Dear airport security, you infuriate, frustrate and exhaust me. But in a way I’m glad you exist, it’s just unfortunate that this way is not the way that I see every time we meet.
Written by Sofia Arthurs Schoppe
Edited by Tom Sagiv