Monday, May 2, 2022

Traveling With Murray Can Be Risky

Perhaps you heard about the recent mayhem at Ben Gurion airport in Israel prompted by an American Jewish family innocently trying to bring onto their flight home an unexploded artillery shell they found in the Golan Heights (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-61267265).


I can totally empathize with them. Back in May 1990 our family participated in a UJA family tour of Israel. It included a visit to the Golan where the military treated our group of 900 to a demonstration of Israeli firepower.


After the shooting stopped 11-year-old Dan and I walked the battlefield and picked up some bullet shells. A few days later as our group waited in the terminal to board planes back to New York we were startled to hear a request for the Forseter family to approach the gate check-in area. We were startled even more when they ominously asked us why we had bullets in our checked luggage.


Our—that is, my—indiscretion resolved itself rather quickly. Few fellow passengers became aware of our—my—faux pas. No pandemonium like what just happened at Ben Gurion. Security even let us keep the bullets which to this day stand upright on our living room shelving.


A few weeks later there was more security fallout from our trip to Israel. Gilda flew to Sweden to attend a medical conference on Lyme disease. When she arrived in Stockholm security noted her recent trip to Israel.


As Forseter is not an immediate giveaway as to religion, security wondered if she was a Palestinian sympathizer. They sequestered her in a room, asked her whom she had met with in Israel and sorted through all of her luggage, even taking apart her travel hair dryer. Keep in mind, this was just a few years after “The Little Drummer Girl” movie starring Diane Keaton about a woman caught up in Palestinian-Israeli  bombing intrigue.


Of course the Swedes found her safe for entry. But it was a lesson that reinforced the need to be vigilant. And as inconspicuous as possible. 


At the end of another family trip to Israel, in 2004, I believe, our line through security was long compared to a second, shorter queue. I wondered out loud why we didn’t shuffle over to that line. I was about to move over when I was informed the shorter line was mostly for Palestinians and non Jews who underwent more comprehensive inspections. 


Our daughter-in-law Allison had yet to join the tribe and marry into our family. Though traveling with four Forseters she didn’t fit our profile. Security singled her out, took her into a separate room and went through her luggage. 


For me, getting through security without a hitch has not been confined to Israel. Traveling home with Gilda from Paris some 20 years ago I carried an elaborately wrapped bar-mitzvah present for a friend’s son. It was a glass hannukiah, commonly called a menorah. 


Naturally, the security agent asked what I was carrying. Instead of saying a glass candelabra, I said it was a hannukiah. Ding, Ding, ding. Security was all over me. I had to unwrap the delicate gift, all the while being teased by Gilda for my indelicate response. It has become one of her favorite “traveling with Murray” stories. 

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