“What is your nationality?” is the hardest question I ever have to answer. Like my ancestors before me, I was born and raised in Jerusalem. I am proud to be a Palestinian Jerusalemite and proud of my history and my nation. However, that pride comes with great consequences. Unlike other Palestinians, we Jerusalemites have no clear legal identity, even though we hold more identity cards, passports, and other travel documents than any other humans on the surface of the earth.
In an apartheid regime, the type of travel document you hold decides the kind of treatment you receive. We Jerusalemites receive inhumane and discriminatory treatment in every aspect of our lives, whether we are traveling, entering a checkpoint, requesting official documents, entering a bank, or simply walking down the streets of our own city. We are alienated and marginalized, and the worst feeling ever is to feel like an alien in your own home.
A while ago, I decided to gather all my travel documents and take a flight to spend my vacation with family. Upon my arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, at the outer checkpoint, I had to get out of the car to be inspected by airport security inside a room while the car was sniffed by dogs. I knew this wasn’t the only security check I would be getting. This was only the ordinary “welcoming” gesture given to anyone who looks like a Palestinian.
When I reached the terminal, I was stopped by another two security officers, who asked me a dozen questions about my belongings, my travel, and my background. Due to COVID-19, some restrictions on flying were being enforced, leaving me as the only Jerusalemite in the airport at the time. I was confidently, approaching the check-in window when a female security officer stopped me and asked me to follow her. She made me stand to the side to ask me more questions about where I live, where I’m going, and why. Afterwards, she instructed me to check in to my flight and then come back to her before I proceeded to the official security check station. As requested, I finished my check-in and found her, only for her to escort me into a comprehensive security unit, designed to humiliate Palestinians, where I was kept for more than 90 minutes, alone, with a dozen security officers. As I was entering this unit, I realized that there were other Palestinians in the airport, but none were escorted to the comprehensive inspection unit, apparently because none of them held the same kind of travel document I had in my hand. Inside this unit, they made me empty my bags and put all my belongings including jacket, shoes, passport, and boarding pass in boxes for them to inspect, while two intelligence officers interrogated me about the most precise details of my life such as my educational background, career, family members, and neighborhood.
I was starting to get more and more anxious as time passed, as I was also worried I would miss my flight. Right before I thought it was over, I was asked to stand in a full body X-ray machine twice. I refused to stand in the machine the third time they asked me to, since I know what this kind of radiation can do to my health when exposed to it multiple times in a row. Due to my rejection, I was escorted into a closed room with two female security officers, who asked me to remove some of my clothing, which they took for scanning and filtering. I felt helpless, humiliated, and truly terrified. I knew that this treatment was only due to me being a Jerusalemite, a helpless Palestinian alien who isn’t legally considered an Israeli citizen or a Palestinian.
After an hour and a half, with all my belongings still spread on the scanning machine, I was asked to get dressed, pack my belongings, and hurry up to catch my flight. Lastly, the icing on the cake: humiliated and flustered from the now lengthy ordeal, to my astonishment and discomfort, I was wished good luck in my travels by the security officers, who bid me farewell with big phony smiles.
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