Haaretz, Feb. 15, 2017
There’s nothing exciting about being stopped at the border entering Israel. There’s no dramatic speech, no hopping over barriers like the little boy in “Love, Actually” did.
In real life it’s depressing, dehumanizing and rather frightening. When I was questioned at passport control, interrogated three times and finally allowed to enter Israel after an hour and a half of uncertainty, I felt relief. But I was also angry and heartbroken, both personally and professionally – and I still am.
My privilege as a Jew means I never imagined that Israel could or would deny me entrance. My parents taught me that Israel is a safe place and the homeland of all Jews. I’ve spent my career as a leader in the American Jewish community, including my current position as a vice president of the New Israel Fund. All these factors kept me from truly empathizing with the experience of uncertainty faced by every Palestinian, Arab, Muslim and many other non-Jews entering or leaving Israel.
And so I was not prepared for a passport control officer to sneer at my explanation that the New Israel Fund (and Shatil) support civil society: “You mean Palestinian civil society.” Or to sardonically reject my self-definition as a Zionist. Or another officer interrogating me from a cheat-sheet with “BDS” written on it in prominent letters, despite the fact that NIF doesn’t support or fund the global BDS movement. After multiple interrogations focusing on NIF’s work, it became clear that I had been detained for political reasons – no other explanation fit.