“What is the purpose of your visit, sir?”
I had to answer that question dozens of times.
Maybe it was because I mentioned that I am traveling to work on a documentary, or maybe because of my name. It’s probably the combination of both that earned me special treatment.
I was at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City flying El AL Airlines to Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion Airport.
An airline attendant guided me towards the front of the line to get my boarding pass. Cold stares from just about everyone else on the line beamed thru my skin. I wonder what they were thinking.
“Sir. We will need to do a thorough search of your check-in bag and carry-on. Please come back ten-after-ten. Thank you.” It was 8:30 PM.
“Hello sir. Please come right this way…”
“Yes. Go inside. Thank you.”
The door closes.
“Hello sir. My name is Danny and I will have to do… you know…” He straps on blue latex gloves.
“Yes. I know.”
Shoes off. Shirt off. “Take your pants down now.”
“So… am I the lucky one today?”
“Umm… yes. I don’t think anyone else today.”
Clothes back on.
Shortly after, I was asked to wait outside and someone will speak to me regarding my belongings.
“Okay sir, you can’t take your pen or earphones with you on the flight. We will put them in your check-in.”
The pen was a graduation gift. It is metal. Fine.
“But why can’t I take my earphones? I want to listen to music. It’s a long flight. I don’t understand.”
“Okay. I understand.” He hands me back my earphones. Negotiations worked.
“Sir. You can’t take your laptop or camera either. You will get them later.” Negotiations failed.
I was then escorted by three of El AL’s attendants. “Please sir, stay in our sight because we don’t want to have to search you again.”
I was then escorted past TSA, and then taken to my seat on the plane. The stares continued to follow. First one on board.
“Have a nice flight.”
The process of scrutiny continued at Ben Gurion Airport.
“What is your fathers name?”
“Okay, come with me sir.”
For another two hours I answered questions about my father, his mother and father, and their parents too. I told them we are from Beit Hanina, but most of my family no longer lives there.
“What is the purpose of traveling to Israel?”
While the same questions kept coming, everyone else from my flight—except one Palestinian family—were passing thru.
Finally, I was cleared. Thank you for the warm welcome to the Holy Land.