When a professor recently asked me to write an article about my infamous experience at the Taba-Eliat border crossing, I could not bear to reiterate the same story I’ve told many times. So I’ve begun a new quest: To learn what rights, if any, travelers have at border crossings. Because borders are often governed by bilateral treaties or domestic laws, rights, regulations and procedures are different everywhere. For the time-being, for obvious reasons, I’m focused on travelers entering Israel.
Currently I’m following a winding trail of repetitive non-answers, referrals and ambiguity. What I’ve learned, more than anything so far is people all over the spectrum–from journalists, travelers, human rights activists in Israel/Palestine, lawyers (at least in the States–waiting to hear from Israelis) and embassy employees, is there is a lack of knowledge. Though border-crossing tips are out there, when it comes to rights, many draw blanks.
For example, while Israel has the right to deny an individual entry, do they have the right to demand information about the contacts in a person’s phone–is an individual obligated to give up a friend’s telephone number? Can they read journals, look through photos? At one point they asked me if I had a password for my computer. They never asked what the password was. Did they have other means of accessing information on it? Do security concerns equate a blank check?
Or are there limits. For example, can a traveler choose to end a search and return back to where they came (something potentially difficult considering you’re trying to get back in a country without evidence of being in another….) ? If Israelis suspect a person of being a terrorist it seems counter-intuitive they would let them simply go back the way they came. Can a person ask to speak to a representative from their embassy during a search?
These are some of the questions I’m hoping to answer. If anyone has any knowledge or ideas, I would appreciate the help! I’m currently waiting to hear-back from some Israeli lawyers and someone at the American embassy. (The exchange with the embassy has persisted for a number of days without helpful results thus-far…)
P.S. My goals is only to educate! Not knowing your rights is being helpless.
Also consider, tourism is positive for Israel/Palestine (and most other nations). Letting travelers know what to expect at the border and how procedures work and what their rights are might encourage hesitant individuals.
So as the title says–yes, Israel reimbursed me for around 80 percent of the cost for a replacement laptop. I got the reimbursement in late December. Since people are still asking me, I’m *finally* posting this.
Thanks to those of you who left me encouraging comments and sent emails about my laptop, traveling, writing, conflict, etc. I am sorry I did not answer many of them. I did read everything and feel enormously lucky to be privy to so many perspectives.
To all those who bombarded my blog with negative comments–to only proclaiming hate for Israelis/Palestinians/Americans/Muslims, to accusing me of leaving my bag unattended (I did not) and never backing-up (I did–but yes, I should have more often): Travel. Read. If you’re in the U.S. take advantage of our amazing diversity and meet new people. If you’re an Israeli, why don’t you visit a Palestinian area? I know I’ll be criticized for saying this and I by no means thinks it’s the rule, however most Israelis I met had never been to a Palestinian area and thought I was crazy for going to Ramallah (which is perfectly safe and 20 minutes from Jerusalem). Likewise, I was shocked by how many Palestinians do not attempt to learn Hebrew. While I understand the repulsion for many, let’s face reality. How can solutions be reached without common languages?
There is tons I do not know about the Israel, Palestinians, Muslims, Jews, etc. I’m learning and with what I learn will likely change some opinions. This is my blogs, my opinions. I’m not a politician, not a journalist, I try to research and write informed entries, however I do not always censor my views or hide my ignorance. So don’t read if you do not want to…I hope you, like me, will be inspired to learn more by this incident, (more precisely the reaction to it).I’m all for criticizing– just make it worthwhile, debatable, something we can work with.
Ok. I’m writing too much. I intended this to be a short sweet post. Actually a reading break.
Yes…post-Israel, I spent a couple last days in Egypt, a couple crazy weeks reuniting with family and friends in NY, and now I’m back Boston, finishing my *last* undergraduate semester.
I miss blogging…but simply have no time now with school work, job, etc. One of these days I plan to catch-up and get back into it =)
Update 4/25/11- FYI I am removing the contents of this post due to the highly personal nature of the content.
Why do we think how we do? What shapes our lives? What can we learn? The following is a series of anecdotes, which in part, explain how I have reached certain opinions. I have received a lot of personal criticism over the last few days. This is my response.
Thanks for reading!
As the title of this program, “Media in the Arab World,” suggests, the point of our time here is partly to dabble in reporting internationally.
Carlene assigned a few pairs of students stories and invited the rest of us to pitch ideas.
The tourist police in Egypt, lounging around at every corner, inspired my first story idea.
Carlene paired Clarice Connors, a grad student on the dialogue, with me to get the scoop. We reasoned visiting the place of the incident, what we believed was a cafe in the Khan (Egypt’s biggest market), was a logical way to begin.
When we got an unexpected chance to visit the Khan straight from lunch yesterday, we jumped. We entered the Khan, the largest souk (market) in Egypt, pens, without knowing the name or location of the cafe or other crucial details of the event, such as date and number of casualties.
We gripped pens and pads, Clarice boasted her wide lens camera and I thanked my Arabic teacher from last year, Nermeen for teaching me crucial words, such as bombing.
As we walked through the rambling alleys and smiling vendors on each side enticed us with scarves, jewels, perfumes and endless other trinkets, we pondered how to bring up the sensitive subject of the bombing. Wandering we knew, wouldn’t cough it up.
The Khan is huge. We don’t even know the name of this place. We’re going to have to ask to get anywhere.
A boy, who looked a few years our junior, smiled from store filled with fabrics.
Though he was perplexed by my stumbling Arabic, the next group of vendors we asked were a hit.
Follow him, they said, pointing to an older man who was already weaving his way down the crowded streets. I shrugged at Clarcie–here we go.
He took us to Naguib Mafhouz, a cafe named after the most iconic of Egypt’s authors. We thanked our guide with a couple pounds–a constant means in Egypt and surveyed the scene.
“I thought it was outdoors,” I said to Clarice. We didn’t see any damage.
A small security stand with a couple tourist police stood to the right. We tentatively approached and began our questioning. The officers didn’t say a whole much, but the vendors were happy to chat and directed us further down the street. We continued down the alley, conducting brief interviews and snapping pictures. Keep going, it’s further down, source after told us.
We turned around the corner and there it was.
A strip of open cafes adjacent to the Mosque of Hussein. The two Samy brothers were our final sources. They pointed out the spot of the attack and wrapped up the interview by scribbling their emails on my pad along with the words “Face Book.” “Look us up, and come back to our cafe,” the younger brother asked. We promised we would.
Writing, which I did earlier this evening was equally interesting. Clarice and I sat in a smoky cafe and she typed as we orally composed.
What were we trying to say? I was interested in why the event was labeled a terrorist attack. Was it because a Western tourist died? Would any random act of violence in a tourist destination automatically qualify? Would a similar act in New York city gain the same reputation? Our sources told us life two days after the event returned to normal. Was this desensitization toward violence or had the media blown a relatively small incident out of proportion? Katarina Kratovac, an AP reporter we met earlier this week, said the international media waited for hours and no government officials came to brief them. Did the lack of information and followup on the event contribute the publics seemingly lack of continued attention to it?
That one short story could have gone so many ways. Reporters’ choices are endless.