At Ben-Gurion Airport by Hedy Epstein

My travel companion Dianne and I left our new friends in the West Bank and arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday 29 January 2004 for our return trip to St. Louis. We thought that what we had said and done was viewed by some as controversial but surely not as threatening.  We were mistaken.

Dianne and I were separated by airport officials.  It soon became clear that I was being treated as a “terrorist.”  I was held for five hours.  The security officials had turned around their badges so that I couldn’t learn their names.

One of them insisted that I take off my clothes. When I insisted on an attorney, she told me that they could detain me and I could miss my flight.  I was further concerned with what they might be doing to Dianne. Was she getting this, or worse, treatment? Wanting to be reunited with her as soon as possible, I then experienced this young woman performing a completely unnecessary strip search of every part of my body, including an internal cavity search.

The only conceivable purpose for this gross violation of my bodily integrity was to humiliate and terrify me. Weakened and outraged by this treatment, I declared to my St. Louis friends who met us at the airport, “I will never, ever, return to the State of Israel. Never!”

Those first weeks back were ones of much sleeping and some depression.

But I broke my vow.

Five months later, refusing to be intimidated, I joined a women’s delegation to continue to do peace and solidarity work in the West Bank.  

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