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Stolen days in Israel

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I never anticipated these problems. I asked so many people, so many questions. When I entered Israel I thought I might be questioned because of my name but not what ended up happening. When I approached the non-Israel passport stand, the woman asked me my father’s name, probably because I was born in Iran that questions started coming. When I said Mohammad Reza I was pretty sure I would be questioned further. She asked me my grandfather’s name, I didn’t know, I didn’t have relations with him. She told me to stand on the side of the counter. I waited. Then I was taken to an office to be questioned. They asked me why I was coming there, where I was coming from, what I was doing there, who I knew here, how I knew them, did I have family here, what I studied, where I studied, my contact info, my friends’ contact info. Then I was asked to wait in this room. I was then questioned again, this time more aggressively. The woman again asked me the same questions, asked me about my flights, then she saw my papers, some of my papers were about volunteering in Nablus. The woman accused me of lying, saying I wanted to volunteer instead of sight see or visit friends. She wanted me to log into my email so she could go through it because she didn’t believe me and said since I emailed my friend that she wanted to see. I refused, saying I couldn’t “as an American.” This meant nothing here.

You mean nothing here. This was then followed by her taking my papers then me waiting more. Then I was taken to find my bag, they then went through all my things, x-rayed them, wiped them down for explosives, everything. They kept questioning me, the same questions, different people. Emptied my bags, excavated them. I was padded down, or frisked as well. They also x-rayed my jacket and shoes. Then after this humiliation I was made to wait again. I was told I wasn’t getting into Israel. I asked them why and the woman said that I lied, when I asked what I lied about she just told me to sit in the room. There’s a high arrogance about them. As if I was being let into the Garden of Eden or something. They are also extremely ignorant. For people with such official positions, I feel they barely had a high school degree. The women at the passport counters just looked like housewives. It is like a military state, where everyone has to run it, with no training except to intimidate and be aggressive. My mistake is to assume good, being naïve, being honest and open.

They fingerprinted me and photographed me at the airport. My other friend that I met in the cell didn’t let them do that, I wish I hadn’t either. But what did I know? I don’t think I’ll be allowed in ever now.

After waiting a long period we were taken to Tel Aviv immigration. I say we because there was also two girls from the U.S. that were Palestinian that weren’t being let in and a tourist girl from Germany. During this time they really told us nothing, one of the American-Palestinian girls asked where we were going, that is how we found out we were going to Tel Aviv Immigration. It was supposedly still on the grounds of the Ben Gurion Airport. The German girl didn’t want to go in because she knew they were going to lock us up. I was more naïve, thinking we were going to just get searched again and get released back to the airport. I wasn’t expecting what happened. Fortunately for the Am-Pal girls their mother had called the airport and the place where we were and they were able to speak with her and were going to be flown out that day to London. They would send you back to where you flew to Tel Aviv from not where you came from, unless you were a migrant worker, apparently. We were made to put our bags in a room and we couldn’t take any pens, cameras, glass objects, or our phones with us. At this point I still didn’t understand, I was too naïve. They put us in a cell. I thought we would just have to wait at the most that day for our flights. By the way my flight landed at 5am on the 17th. I was interrogated for around 7 hours at the airport until I was taken to Tel Aviv immigration around 1pm. After the Am-Pal girls left I inquired about when my flight was. The guard told me I was to leave on the 20th. At this point I completely broke down because I did not want to be there for 3 days. By the way I thought it was the 16th because that is when I flew out, I forgot I had landed the next day, so I thought it was four days. I was a little relieved to find out later it was a day less but it didn’t make much difference. The reason why I had to stay till the 20th was because they were only going to fly me back to the same city I came from on the same exact airline. Earlier flights were apparently booked. I asked them what about my rights; they didn’t allow me to contact the US embassy or my mom. The woman said that I was arrested (even though I wasn’t), not saying for what and I didn’t have rights because I never entered Israel (I was still at the airport). It is quite strange being in that position, as this is stuff I have studied. To be living it is another thing. I said what about international law and I know people at the UN, she said go ahead and contact them if I wanted. She grabbed my arm and screamed to “put her back in her cell.”

No one knew where I was. They knew I was supposed to be en route to Palestine. Some hopefully knew I had been detained. I texted some friends and my mom at the airport during my interrogation.

I had never felt so invisible, powerless and worthless, and so much hate.

I was never told why I was there, no one told me anything. I never felt so alone.

They treated us like criminals. Most or all don’t seem educated past secondary school.

If we complained about our conditions they would scream at us. The cell was dirty, the blankets they gave us were old, and nothing was cleaned. They barely took out the trash. When someone complained about the dirty cell the “big boss,” as they called him, started screaming at the woman and threw the broom and dust pan into the room and told her to clean it. There was a cleaning lady but she didn’t really clean well and made the room dirtier. She was also yelled at. He said that he cleaned his office so we should clean up after ourselves. There was some kind of attitude that we were in some kind of hotel. Even one girl was told she was being taken to a “mini-hotel,” another Am-Pal girl that came the night after the earlier ones left. Every night new people would come, 3-5 women. The room had 6 beds but often there would be 7 of us. It was a room of maybe 8×10, there was a bathroom and two showers. The bathroom looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for a long time. There was little air circulation. There was a window but the way the building was made no breeze came in and it had two layers of “bars” that also impeded air circulation. They would put on the air conditioning at night, not during the day, and it would get so cold, like almost 50ºF, and caused us to get sick. I started getting sick, wanting to vomit, probably because of the stress, the conditions. The only time we were able to leave the cell was to smoke a cigarette, which would be at the most three times a day. No exercise, fresh air or sunshine. And we would just stand in the hallway in front of the cell, in front of open windows to smoke the cigarettes. I would just pretend to smoke just to leave the cell. The floor was dirty, the blankets and this thin mattress cover were old. They didn’t change these things, and with people coming in and out from different countries who knows what was in the blankets. Sick people, bacteria. They gave some a toothbrush. This is about all we got.

The cells were mostly filled with migrant workers, with a few Palestinians who were trying to get to Palestine (who were coming from elsewhere). The migrant workers had come on different visas and would just overstay their time. There were women from the Philippines, Georgia, Russia, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka, Moldova, Nepal etc. They were all shocked when I told them I was American and just a tourist. They wondered why I was there. A lot of the migrant workers would be sent to jail, or Ramle, before they came to the immigration detention center. A woman from Nepal stayed in Ramle for 6 months just because she was waiting to get paid by her employer, then she came to the detention center to get deported. She didn’t want to leave. I doubt there are any inquiries as to what situation these people are deported back to, if their lives are at risk, from torture, etc. According to the migrant workers it appeared that Ramle was better than the detention center, as they had a small garden, and were allowed to walk around, and had better food.

A Filipino woman said: “This place makes you crazy. You’ll see. They tell you that you will leave tomorrow, then two more days, then more. You go crazy in here.” I probably would have gone crazy if I stayed any longer than I did.

They barely gave us water. They told us to drink from the tap when it didn’t seem drinkable; it tasted like paint or something. They had intense lighting in the room. Three large circular lights on the ceiling, that were probably 1-1.5 feet in diameter, with a high intensity, almost as a fog light, and then by each bed there was a large light, the shape of a football, attached to the wall, twice as big as a football, also with a high intensity. They would leave these lights on into the night to maybe midnight or 2am, and sometimes during the day. They would also sometimes turn them on further in the middle of the night when they were bringing in new people. When I asked for a bandaid for a sore I had on my foot they gave me some tape and gauze that wasn’t even packaged.

There was a consistent idea that we were in some kind of free hotel. One guard even said the cleaning was room service, even though my cellmate and I decided to clean just so we could have our door open and wait outside when the mopping was dry. When I asked if we could go outside to get sun I had to tap on the small window on the door and he said to stop tapping because it made him crazy, then yelled at me to open the window then walked away. We couldn’t leave the windows open at night because of mosquitos. I have bites all over my body from them though, and maybe other bugs. The worst is that they didn’t let us call anyone. No one knew we were there. The woman from the embassy was of no help, Eve Zukerman. My mom had called and emailed her because she received my text and didn’t hear from me. All she would tell me was what Israel had the right to do; she didn’t even help me speak to my mom. Although I told Eve what I was going through she said couldn’t do anything besides look up flights, confirming that I had to leave on the 20th and stated that I had to go to Barcelona on the same airline because that was the policy in Israel.

I couldn’t sleep because of lack of ventilation, unsanitary conditions. Whenever I put on the thick blankets they gave us, thick blankets for winter but given to us in the summer, I felt things crawling on my body and biting me. I couldn’t eat because of depression and the circumstances. I had no appetite even though I was hungry. I would eat maybe once or twice a day. I ate just so the hunger pains wouldn’t hurt as much. I saw about 18 people come and go because 6 new people would arrive every day and about the same number would leave that day. Some people were very depressing to be around. One lady wouldn’t stop complaining, all day and all night. It was increasing my stress. They would constantly yell at us. Screaming at everyone.

When I asked to get a change of clothes because I couldn’t keep wearing my shirt and jeans after two days, I couldn’t sleep, the guard said, “this is not perfection” in terms of the conditions. Later I was allowed to get a change of clothes, this is when I smuggled my phone in my jacket sleeve back to my room, because they searched the things that we took from the bags. I then texted my mom and friend again, so they knew what was going on and could contact people if they kept me there longer. I also used my phone to take pictures. They have cameras in the room, I don’t know how they didn’t catch me, maybe because I was really discreet.

Other cells had tvs but for some reason ours didn’t. Most of the people there were men. I think there were about 10 cells occupied. They would sometimes pack the cells with people. It made it hotter and loud.

I made some ‘friends’ in this experience though, as I met an American-Palestinian girl who I got along with well and she being there made the time go by faster. Also she developed a good rapport with the guards and whatnot, even the “big boss” which was good to be attached to. She was let into Israel though before I left so I was pretty much alone the last night. Every day and night people came but they usually left quickly. I also met a Columbian-Palestinian who was staying there fore weeks for his court day. He wanted to enter Palestine because all his family was there.

When they took me to my flight to Barcelona neither men appeared to be very educated. The driver, who turned out to be a policeman escorted me onto the plane, then handed my passport to the male cabin crewmember and just said “deport.” He was very ignorant and barely knew any English. He said who are you, and the guy said policeman, and he asked for id. The cabin crew person gave my passport to the captain, which furthered my treatment as if I was a criminal. Insult to injury. The cabin crewmember said he didn’t know what to do because he wasn’t given a letter and this had never happened before. It was all new to him, according to him.

The Israelis had a strong arrogance about their state; they acted like I wanted to stay. I am haunted by any Jewish symbolism and traumatized by these events. Who will compensate me for all the money I spent going home and getting there. I have spent basically $1,000 on this nightmare. Three days of my life have been taken away from me. How am I supposed to be compensated? Who will compensate me? No one should have to go through this, be treated like this. Not only did I pay around $600 for my ticket to Tel Aviv but also 247 euros to change my ticket as they only flew me back to Barcelona.

I was treated like an animal. Put in a cage, yelled at, not allowed out, not allowed to call anyone. They are the animals. Surrounded by such stupid people. They were like people off the street made policemen, made to guard immigrants. They treat the migrant workers like slaves, like dirt. To lock someone up like that.

I’ll never travel alone again. I used to feel free to travel alone, and comfortable. I’ve done a lot of traveling by myself, even in Iran.

When I gave my passport to the woman at the airport I should have known. What a sick state. Illegal, built on blood and conducting genocide, acting with impunity. It is sick.

After being back and speaking to my friends and my mom I found out even more sick information. When my mom or my friend in Palestine would call any Israeli authority they would not tell them where I was or that I was even there. They told my friend in Palestine that I was not even there and they told my mom that I was no longer being detained. This makes me even sicker.