May 31, 2011

Two funny stories for you.

There were plenty of funny things on this trip, but i'm just going to share the two that I think are the best.

1. While waiting in line at Masada I made friends with a group of tourists from Kenya. It was mostly women, only three men including their pastor who was leading the trip. They were great. So loud and funny and happy. They taught me some cool words and told me all about how beautiful their country was.

They asked about where I was from and I explained that I was from a state in the western USA and it looked a lot like Israel (it really does, a lot alike). They had no idea that there was a desert in the US and were quite amazed. One lady stopped me and said "You can't be from the desert!" I said "Yeah i guess i'm kinda too white" (i was very pale. we weren't even out of winter yet!) And she said, "No, you are too fat!"

Um. Yeah.

I don't know what they were talking about. I totally see a resemblance :-)

The American in me wanted to be offended and defend myself and tell her how much weight i've lost...but I decided to let my Kenyon roots come out and I just laughed. They were all large women so I figured I was in good company. And it makes sense. In Africa the people who live in the desert are thin. There is no food in their desert. I come from a very well stocked desert :-)

2. I wanted to get my butt-head brother a keffiyeh from Israel. We were at a shop that our guide always goes to and he had some. He taught us how to wear them and gave us a good deal. I bought one and didn't think about it again...until I hit airport security.

Real quick I'm going to give you a rundown of Israeli airport security:

* All cars, taxis, buses and trucks go through a preliminary security checkpoint before entering the airport compound. Armed guards spot-check the vehicles by looking into cars, taxis and boarding buses, exchanging a few words with the driver and passengers.

* Armed security personnel stationed at the terminal entrances keep a close watch on those who enter the buildings. If someone arouses their suspicion or looks nervous, they may strike up a conversation to further assess the person's intent. Plainclothes armed personnel patrol the area outside the building, and hidden surveillance cameras operate at all times.

* Inside the building, both uniformed and plainclothes security officers are on constant patrol.

* Departing passengers are personally questioned by security agents even before arriving at the check-in desk. This interview can last as little as five minutes, or as long as an hour if a passenger is selected for additional screening. Luggage and body searches may be conducted. After the search, bags are placed through an X-ray machine before passengers proceed to the check-in counters. All that said, El Al and Ben Gurion airport has for a long time realised that the person is more important than their bags. Therefore, occasionally, if security have assessed a person as a low risk, they will pass them straight through to the check-in desks, bypassing the main x-ray machines. Note that hand baggage is always x-rayed later on.

* After check-in, checked baggage is put in a pressure chamber to trigger any possible explosive devices. Passengers continue through to personal security and passport control, as in other airports. Before passing through the metal detectors and placing hand baggage through the X-ray machine, passports are re-checked and additional questions may be asked. Before boarding the aircraft, passports and boarding passes are checked once again.

* Security procedures for incoming flights are not as stringent, but passengers may be questioned by passport control depending on country of origin, or countries visited prior to arrival in Israel. Passengers who have recently visited countries at war with Israel (all Arab countries except Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania and Qatar) may be subject to further questioning

They also had dogs all over sniffing the luggage.

It really was amazing. And a little nerve-wracking. But I was actually quite grateful for it. It keeps people safe. And they were quick, efficient and polite (unlike any American airport i've been too).
Our group was moving through pretty smoothly...until it was my turn to go through my bad with an agent. She asked me tons of questions and opened all of the compartments in my bag. Then she saw the keffiyeh and stopped. She starting grilling me about it. "Where did you buy this? Who did you buy it from? Why did you buy this? Why did you buy this particular one? Why did you buy this color? Is there a reason you picked this color? Why didn't you pick a different color?"

I was getting more and more nervous was realizing that I obviously picked the wrong color keffiyeh...

I stuttered out my answers and the agent finally realized that I was just a stupid tourist. As I was closing my bag back up I asked her if the colors meant anything. She laughed and said that they certainly do, but not to me (me = katie) so don't worry about it. I just said thank you and moved on. I asked others in my group but no one could explain.

The day i got home I googled it...

Turns out that I bought my brother a terrorist keffiyeh...

Good job Kate.

- Update -

I was told that my brother might get shot if i left the pic of him on here. So i took it down. Instead I will include a small image of the colors so that you will know which not to buy when you are in Israel.


Sue said...

Love it! You tell good stories. I hope your brother appreciates your being scared to death.

karla said...

You make me laugh - "a well stocked desert"! Have you looked in your fridge lately?