Published: January 10th 2012January 5th 2012
My cheapest option leaving Germany for Israel brought me back through Istanbul. I was happy to see old faces and places again, but worried about my passport. My Turkish visa had expired during my stay and I feared Israel would deny me one for having traveled though the enemy territory of Lebanon. I hoped for the best, but expected the worst. I scanned the officers at the Turkish Passport Control for my best bet – either one not paying any attention, or one I could most easily win over. He was easy to spot and I breezed right through.
As soon as I stepped off the plane in Tel Aviv, however, I knew that the Israeli side would prove more difficult. A security guard met me at the gate and grilled me about why I came to Israel, where I planned staying, and how long I would be there. That interrogation over, I again surveyed the line of customs officials and chose a young, tired woman. When it came my turn, she stood up, flashed five fingers through the window and left the cramped booth. In her place returned a big brute of a man, who brusquely asked for my
passport and the address of where I was staying. My hand darted into my bag to retrieve the crumpled paper I had written it on and a knuckle came back skinless and studded with blood. I knew it wasn’t kosher to eat blood, but it was starting to run down my finger and I didn’t know what to do with it. I panicked and stuffed the bleeding knuckle into my mouth. Questions were asked in accusatory tones, suspicious glances were shot out of the corner of eyes, and phone calls were made to higher officials. Then, without warning, my inquisitor’s attitude did a complete 180. He smiled, stamped my passport and warmly welcomed me to Israel.
By the time I made it to the baggage claim, my backpack was making lonely rounds on the carousel. It was 1:30 in the morning and trains into town didn’t start running until 5:30. I found the dimmest corner of the airport, spread out my yoga mat and fell into a surprisingly deep sleep. When the appropriate time came, I boarded a train that had neither a map of its stops nor other passengers to ask about my destination. Not surprisingly, I got off on the wrong stop and had to wait another 45 minutes for the next train. I’d been expecting the worst for this leg of the trip, so I wasn’t angry or upset – just tired. Exploration would have to wait.