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October 25, 2016 / 23 Tishri, 5777
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Security, Then, Now, Here, There

How shocking now to think that two of my sons are older than that young man was then...

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Security guard checking a man for weapons and explosives before letting him enter the Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv.

Security guard checking a man for weapons and explosives before letting him enter the Central Bus Station in Tel-Aviv.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/Flash90

I watched as each passenger was processed by passport control. I listened as the line wrapped around. I was about 20 people out, slowly moving forward. The woman in front of my was Indian – by dress, skin coloring and passport. How long are you staying here? Do you have any family here? When are you leaving? (She’s just getting here.) He continued to question her and finally called over a supervisor.

By now, my turn had come. I have my Israeli passport and my American passport with me. I decided that I didn’t care which passport I use and so I pulled out one when I completed the paperwork. It was the American one. I seemed to be the only American in line.

I handed over my passport – and yes, the man spoke to me in a more polite, less condescending way than his previous “client.” Why are you here? I’m attending a conference. How long are you staying? Eight days. Stamp, stamp – clear.

Total time for processing – about 25 seconds.

That is ethnic profiling and according to this person’s criteria, I passed. I found myself a bit offended on behalf of the other dozen or more people in line. I can understand why people are against ethnic profiling. I was identified as someone who was going to visit the UK, spend tourist dollars, and leave. I was okay – by my skin color, by my way of dressing, and by my passport.

What hypocrisy that Israel is ridiculed and condemned for practicing ethnic profiling to stop bombs from exploding on our buses while others regularly practice ethnic profiling for economic reasons. That man checking this small Indian woman knows she’ll never blow anything up. His greatest fear, and the fear of those who trained him, is that she may take someone’s job or become financially dependent on Britain to take care of her.

For money, they are allowed, but for our lives, we are not. That, my friends, is wrong.

Visit A Soldier’s Mother.

Paula Stern

About the Author: Paula R. Stern is CEO of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company in Israel. Her personal blog, A Soldier's Mother, has been running since 2007. She lives in Maale Adumim with her husband and children, a dog, too many birds, and a desire to write.

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