I’ve been thinking about my non-experience this morning. It was harder as a US citizen to get in and out of Canada than it was to get a visa extension in Israel, the mecca of national security enforcement.
You would have guessed the opposite. At least, that is what one is lead to believe based on the plethora of horror stories about hours upon hours in interrogation rooms, circular questioning, and outright hostility. People warned me – have a story, what are you going to say?, you should come up with something really brilliant, you have a boyfriend, you want to make aliyah, you want to travel, but don’t ever, ever tell them what you’re really here for. And I didn’t. But it was … anticlimactic, to say the least. She wasn’t particularly pleasant, but she wasn’t unpleasant. Just about as you’d expect for someone who does this for a living and at 8:20 am.
Then again, I was expecting this, more or less. My subtle “I’m Jewish without having to say so” cue was a chamsa necklace with a chai in the center. I left no doubt. Still, it is bizarre to hear so much apprehension and so many warnings and have the experience be so un-noteworthy. It makes so much twisted sense, though.
They don’t really care that my passport is littered with Jordanian stamps and residency permits. They only care about what – not even who – I am. If they knew who I was, so to speak, I doubt they would be so generous with visa extensions. But they only know what I am. And that, by virtue of the circumstances of my birth and my childhood, has made me eligible to be part of this elite group who are not hassled. (Something about a haaaandbag?!.)
I hate that I took advantage of the situation, but how could I not? I wasn’t going to pretend to be somebody/something I’m not. That would be stupid. Utterly daft. Still, it is an uneasy position. I disagree so strongly with how they make these decisions. A foreigner is a foreigner no matter what their religion. (This is not where I discuss my opinion on border patrol in general, rather just mention that their policies are not in alignment with the rest of the states they are trying to desperately to win the approval of.)
The point is, I do not agree with this policy. “Policy.” I’m not sure. The practice is discriminatory. It discriminates against everyone who is not a Jew. Non-Jewish Americans, Europeans, Africans, Asians, it doesn’t matter. If you’re not Jewish, you will be questioned and interrogated until your face turns blue. But I am one of the “chosen people”. So what do I do? Do I go along with it because it favors me? Do I admit why I am here and what I believe, at the risk of a speedy deporting? Do I take advantage of the easy out, the opportunity to lie and get away with it, to pretend to be just slightly different to take advantage of a system that will favor me no matter what?
It’s unfair that it is so easy for me and not for others who, it seems to me, have as much if not more of a right to be here.