A Few Travel Tips
By Amer Zahr
- Mr. President, I hear you are traveling to Israel. As a
concerned patriotic American citizen of Palestinian descent, I
have some pointers for you.
Now, I assume you’ll be flying into Tel Aviv. Usually, when
non-Jews arrive there, especially if they are a little
darker-skinned, they are asked to wait in a… let’s call it a
“VIP Room.” Incidentally, the room is quite nice. There’s a
water cooler, comfortable chairs, and a soda machine. It’s
probably the only place in the world where you can be racially
profiled and get an ice-cold Coca-Cola all at once.
To avoid the room, I would mention that you are the President of
the United States. It might help.
You may get strip-searched. Saying you are an American doesn’t
help much here. I’ve tried. I even sang the national anthem last
time an Israeli soldier was looking down my pants. Right after I
said, “Oh say can you see,” he said, “Not much.”
To escape this embarrassment, I would mention that you are the
President of the United States. It might help.
In case they don’t already know, you might not want to tell
Israeli security you are half-Muslim. As a fellow half-Muslim, I
can tell you they don’t really care about the percentage. Any
bit of Muslim freaks them out. And I’m not sure if you heard,
but the fans of one of Israel’s soccer teams, Beitar Jerusalem,
actually protested when the club signed two Muslim players. When
one of them scored in a game last week, hundreds of fans
actually walked out of the stadium. One of the fans later stated
about the Muslim players, “It’s not racism. They just shouldn’t
be here.” Hopefully, they don’t know your middle name is
“Hussein.” Maybe they didn’t watch the inauguration.
In any case, I would mention that you are the President of the
United States. It might help.
This next one might be a little tough. Maybe you didn’t hear,
but lately there has been a little “African problem” in Israel.
Over the past several years, tens of thousands immigrants from
Africa, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered the “only
democracy in the Middle East.” Most of them are looking for
work, and some are political refugees. Israel has recently
rounded up many of them for deportation. Oh, and by the way,
they don’t call them “refugees” or “migrants,” they call them
“infiltrators.” Israelis have held numerous demonstrations in
Tel Aviv, where most of the migrants live, to demand an African
exodus from Israel.
And the refugees aren’t the only Africans Israel seems to have a
problem with. About 150,000 Israeli Jews are of Ethiopian
descent. A number of news organizations reported early this year
that Israeli government doctors had been giving Ethiopian Jewish
women contraceptives either against their will or without their
knowledge. The Israeli government admitted the practice and
decided to stop it once it was reported on. See, Mr. Obama, many
rabbis in Israel have questioned the “Jewishness” of Ethiopian
Jews. And if you’re not Jewish in Israel, well… I’d be glad to
give you the full story on that someday. So they’re not too
crazy about their own Ethiopian citizens, and last year,
Benjamin Netanyahu warned that illegal immigrants from Africa
“threaten our existence as a Jewish and democratic state.” I
know, “Jewish” and “democratic”? It’s confusing. I’ll try to
explain that one to you one day too, but I can’t guarantee I’ll
be able to. But I think one thing is clear. Israel does not seem
to like Africans too much.
Now I know you’re not from Eritrea, Ethiopia, or Sudan, but I
probably wouldn’t advertise too strongly that your dad was from
Kenya. This might be really hard, given your skin tone and
everything, especially if you’re bringing Michelle with you.
To avoid any dangers of getting deported to Nairobi, I would
just keep mentioning that you are the President of the United
States. It might help.
OK, finally, when you leave, Israeli security officers are going
to search your bags. And they don’t do it casually with a smile
like our airport security here. They go through your stuff like
a wife looking for evidence of an affair. You might remind them
that you, as the President of the United States, sign their
And they’re going to strip search you again. Yes, on the way out
too. Strip searches in Israel are “buy one, get one free.” They
perform the strip search in a section of the airport aside from
where the normal operations are conducted. You’ll run into a few
of your Palestinian-American constituents when you’re there. I
know it’s a weird place for someone to ask to take a picture
with you, but to us, it’s just part of visiting home.
You don’t have to mention to us that you are the President of
the United States. We already know. We supported you, twice.
Maybe you can return the favor.
an Arab-American stand-up comedian. Drawing on his experiences
growing up as a child of Palestinian refugees, he finds the
humor in culture, politics, history, and everyday life.
has also produced and headlined in 2 of his own comedy tours,
"1001 Laughs Comedy Tour" & "We're Not White!"
writes and speaks widely on political and social affairs, and
has appeared on radio and television, including ABC's
"Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher."
has performed throughout North America & the Middle East.
always contact Amer at
firstname.lastname@example.org and don't forget to check out his website
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