Incidents and accidents: Holy land tourism, part 2

December 11, 2018

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 11, 2018

Some of the glitches on the Israel trip that Lady X and I took in 2009 involved airports. I’ve already recounted my possible (likely?) anxiety about not having booked a rental car in advance, but there were two further incidents that had some potential to go badly.

The first one was a discrete incident that occurred as we were waiting in line to be screened at Ben Gurion before flying back to the U.S., I suddenly became fixated on some knotted leather strings on X’s backpack that weren’t fastened to my satisfaction. It was a small thing, but I must have looked like a bit nutty. When the screener started quizzing us, X quite sensibly told me to cut it out and help her answer the questions like a normal person.

The other hiccup — which, like everything else on our trip, worked out fine in the end — occurred at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, where we needed to clear customs and immigration before we could catch our flight back to Raleigh-Durham International Airport. However, this problem stemmed from a decision X and I had made, at my urging, upon our arrival in Israel.

I’d read something to the effect that if I wished to travel to Arab or majority Muslim countries, I might be denied entry if my passport bore an entry stamp from Israel. So instead of getting our passports stamped, we got our stamps issued on a square of loose paper. However, I didn’t expect what came next: Our paper slips were collected by an official as we left the customs and immigration area at Ben Gurion.

On the plus side, our passports hadn’t been stamped with anything that might complicate a potential trip to any other nation; on the negative side, our passports hadn’t been stamped at all. Several times over the ensuing week, I wondered if the lack of documentation of our overseas trip would cause complications for X and I when we re-entered the United States.

X and I wandered over the U.S. consulate in Tel Aviv to inquire how to address this possible issue, but I think we arrived after 4 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 10. At that point, the building had already closed for the day, and it wouldn’t reopen until after we needed to be at the airport to catch our return flight.

As you might imagine, I was holding my breath as X and I lined up at customs at JFK. But I needn’t have worried: We told the agent that we were returning from a pleasure trip and he stamped our passports with barely another question or two.

And that accounted for all of the hiccups on our Israel trip… except for the one prompted me to start writing about this snags in the first place, which I’ll document in a future post.

To be continued…

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