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…Or so I thought

1 August 2008

So yeah.  I’m still in Tel Aviv.  I’ve always considered myself quite lucky when it comes to airlines, and I’ve never really experienced any of those disasters about which everyone complains.  Until now.

Everything was going great, actually.  I got through the much-fabled Ben-Gurion security with only about five minutes of questioning about the Moroccan stamp in my passport, got on the plane, and all was swell.  Until we pulled over just as we got to the runway.  Evidently, there was a battery problem.  A bunch of technicians came on board, and everyone seemed optimistic that it could be fixed.

Then they cancelled the flight.

The problem, interestingly, was not the battery, or even crew rest regulations.  For reasons I don’t comprehend, there’s a security policy that prohibits flights from departing Tel Aviv between 1:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  Landing flights are fine, but no departures.  Our repairs took us past 1:30, and even though we were literally at the end of the runway, Airport Control said “No dice–you’re staying in Israel tonight”.  

Most everyone understood, and I have to say, the Air Canada folks did a nice job at the beginning.  They didn’t even turn back to the gate, they got busses to come get us from out by the runway.  They started working on hotels, and were remarkably graceful dealing with disgruntled passengers–you have to understand, for many people it was essential that they be home soon, as most Orthodox Jews absolutely will not fly on Shabbat.  They even hauled out pastries and drinks.  By the time we got to our hotel, it was 5:00 a.m.  The kicker is that they put us up in the Jerusalem Regency–literally two-hundred yards from the student dorms I’d lived in for the last month.  In the truest sense of the word, this was back to square one.

Anyways, I just got done with the most thorough security working-over I’ve ever experienced.  Last night, like I said, was a breeze, but this time, no such luck.  After flipping through my passport and seeing Morocco and Egypt, the grilling started: “What were you doing in these countries?”; “Who lead the trip?”; “Did you meet any local people there?”; “How long did you stay with your host family?”; “What were their names?”; “Do you still keep in touch?”.  And of course my personal favorite question: “Why are you interested in the MIddle East?”.  I still had my application essay for Middle East Mosaics, but I figured this would be an inappropriate time to start with that one.

Anyways, they deemed me a “High Security Threat” (No Joke–I had the highest numerical rating on my luggage tag), which set off a 45 minute hand search of my baggage.  They took every last item out of my bags, swiped every item–socks, ipod, books, you name it–with those explosive sensors.  They then took my laptop for three different scans, made me take the battery out, turn it on and show them documents.  And of course, a personal metal detector search in which my wallet was taken and searched through quite thoroughly.  The interesting thing about security here though: they apologize to you afterwards.  In fact, all the guards are quite pleasant, and I can be pretty sure that nothing got through that security check.

Anyways, they’re calling my flight–here’s to hoping to that I actually make it out of this time zone this time!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. 31 August 2008 2:24 am

    Hal,
    I just am reading this nearly a month after it happened, laughing, because I had nearly the exact same security experience. Hope you are well.

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