Day 1: Interrogations, Tefillin, and Strip Clubs

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Hey, guys. I’m here in Tel Aviv ready to see stuff and things.

As I wrote earlier today, I’m on a month long stay in Israel!

So, getting here was the MOST hilarious experience I’ve ever had on a trip. The airline I used had a passport control line before you could even check in for your flight.

Apparently, a twenty-something female traveling to a country for the first time with an older man sets off some kind of prostitute-terrorist red flags in their little system because they went hard in the paint.

First, my friend and I went up to a kiosk when it was our turn in line. A young man asked for my passport and asked a couple of questions about why I’m going to Israel (standard stuff). Then he asked my friend why we were together. He said hold on and went and got some older guy. He came and asked me the same questions and then went and got a lady and told her in Hebrew to take me across the terminal to another kiosk.

Now, I’ve seen enough movies and episodes of Locked up Abroad to know if they separate you from people you’re traveling with, it’s about to get cray.

This last interrogator was some intense woman who kept asking me if I let anyone put a bomb in my bag and that innocent gifts can be bombs too.

I now know they then asked my friend where I worked, how I paid for my ticket, if he’d ever met my parents, if I was Jewish, what the nature of our relationship is, etc.

The first guy asked me was if I was a member of a synagogue or church and I said a church so the lady asked me 37 questions about that: When’s the last time I went, did I pay to be a member, what church, where is it located, what religion is it, would anyone know me there. Then they asked my friend where, when, why, and how we met. Then his interrogator and mine kept walking away from their kiosks and comparing our answers.

I have a new passport because my old one expired and they couldn’t understand that. I had to explain everywhere I went with the old passport, the dates and duration of my trips, with whom I travelled and why.

This included day-trips to Turkey and Morocco so I had to give the lowdown on that. Then she asked me all about my job and school and the nature/duration/reason for mine and my friend’s relationship and my financial situation.  They asked each of us more personal questions that made it clear they thought I was either an international call-girl or a terrorist or both and compared their answers again.

Then the lady escorted me to the check in desk and told me we would be intercepted after TSA security.

They followed us all the way to the gate. They intercepted us before we got in line to board as I was exiting the bathroom. They took our carryons into a separate room, made us wait until final boarding was called, and searched each of them by hand (all after the TSA search).

Then, they pulled me into a room alone with three more security specialists and scanned my body, clothes, and stuff. Then they escorted both of us past the line to board and onto the plane.

They did this to two other people on the flight too…I won’t comment on what we did and didn’t have in common.

The plane was a 747-400 that had two stories! I’ve always seen those on TV and in movies but never IRL, so that was neat!

Now, the plane ride was also super interesting. I’d say 90 percent of the travelers were Orthodox Jewish. Now, before I moved to NYC, I thought there were three groups of Jews: Orthodox Jews with the hats and curls, Jews who wore yarmulkes, and secular Jews that just belonged to the culture. Now that I’m not ignorant of the denominations, I know there are dozens of sects and cultural groups. Long story short, I am fascinated and completely naive of Orthodox Judaism so flying with a huge group was interesting. There were a couple of groups of new immigrants and American Christians too.

The food was delicious and all Kosher, of course. Twice during the flight all the orthodox men got up and went through their prayer rituals with their Tallit and Tefillin (shawls and phylacteries).

I was amazed they were allowed to get up and pack and unpack all of their supplies and get in groups and walk around and stand near the exit doors and everything, but my friend said the staff gave up trying to enforce the rules long, long ago.

**Even though it was confusing and embarrassing (like my gingerness doesn’t make me stick out enough), I’m genuinely glad the airline/security and immigration officials take everything so seriously. I’m not being sarcastic or anything like that. It was a hilarious and enlightening experience that I will never forget.**

The flight went by surprisingly fast (as it always does going, but seldom returning) and we didn’t have any issues once we got here. My friend’s nephew picked us up and drove us to the hotel.

I got a few hours of sleep but woke up at 2 AM and haven’t been able to go back to bed.

Side note: It also turns out there are strip clubs here and the window in my room gives me a fullllll, elevated view of the entrance/exit of a huge one called Pussycat. There will be much filming and picture taking of these drunk fools stumbling in and out of here.

Tomorrow my friend has to take care of some business downtown and then I think I’ll go to the grocery store and who knows what else. The hotel is right on the marina so hopefully some beachin’ will take place at some point.

I’m going to attempt to get a couple of hours sleep in the meantime. Catch y’all mañana!

Don’t forget to add me on all the things @thatgingeranna

Waiting for the security specialists to clear my carryons!