Letters to the Editor

Mistaken for a drug mule

Terrorists acquire some of their loot via drugs. That’s why Israelis profile everyone, including me.

A buddy invited me to Bosnia this July, so I combined the journey with jaunts to other countries. My first stop was Israel. Apparently I raised red flags by staying for two days and three nights.

Leaving Israel was almost as hard as climbing out of the Dead Sea. Salt water weight down your trunks while you stumble into dropoffs.

A young female supervisor in uniform barraged me with questions. Where had I stayed? Jerusalem Gold Hotel. Did I know anyone in Israel? No. She asked three times, at different junctures, about the purpose of my visit. That’s when an interrogator looks for inconsistencies or memorized answers. My purpose was to see Bethlehem and Golgotha.

How did I get to these locations, by taxi? That was a question in search of a lie. A cab would be prohibitively expensive. The jolly Italian concierge had arranged day trips through the state-sponsored Rent-a-Guide service. I mentioned having considered a visit to Masada, but realized it would be too hot. The customs agent said, “Yes, it’s hot, but it’s beautiful there. Did you go to the Dead Sea?”

“Yes,” I paused dramatically, and deadpanned, “I’ve never been so hot before in my life.”

She laughed. It had been 109 degrees. You could sit motionless in the shade, and watch sweat bead up on your forearms.

Why was I stopping in Israel? It was not on the way to my other destinations. I named my hosts in Bosnia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. Who had invited me to Bosnia? I explained how my friend had organized a surprise ten-year anniversary party for his wife in her hometown.

Did anyone give me any gifts in Israel? No, I purchased gifts for people.

“I’m asking,” said the agent, “because someone might have given you something with an illegal substance.”

No, I had not.

“What do you do for a living?”

“I’m a playwright.” That perked her up. I’ve written two folklore textbooks, five radio plays, a short film, and a stage play.

She thanked me for my honesty. Another female agent swabbed my bag, then opened the shampoo bottle. The ladies helped me navigate my way through the rest of the confusing airport.

I passed the interrogation with flying colors, despite having raised red flags. When in a foreign country, you must obey their laws, answer questions truthfully, and respect authority. Better still, go with a group.

Birke Duncan


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