After a long journey (it took me 22 hours from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv, with a pit stop in Bucharest where I saw Calin and Sana, played with Ziggy, ate delicious hummus and slept four hours), I landed in Tel Aviv. It was a warm and sunny morning. Ah, warmth. We don’t get this kind of warmth in the Netherlands, relaxing and dry.
I was a bit nervous about the passport control. I had heard it can be tough going into Israel, so I braced myself for what was to come. There were separate booths for Israeli citizens, with green writing on top, and non-Israelis, with orange writing. I was immediately aware of my usual privilege of being an EU citizen (always going in the fast queues) and how here it was the other way around. Interesting, to experience the other side of the coin.
After answering a few of his questions, where I was from, why I was here, what I did for a living, the passport control officer told me to go to the immigration office where one of his colleagues will give me back my passport. He pointed me the way. With my heart slowly starting to beat faster, I made my way there. My mind started to race. I remembered someone I met a few years ago who had told me he had come to Israel and been sent back. I starting imagining what would happen if I was sent back, everything I would have to arrange… I stopped myself. This was not helpful, this mind-rant around the worst case scenario. I told myself that if this does happen, I will worry about that bridge when I get to it. Right now it was important to stay present and calm, so I sat down and focused on my breath. I considered writing to someone, anyone on WhatsApp. But there was no use, nobody could help me right now.
As I waited, I enjoyed watching my surroundings, the beautiful light, the blue sky above, the warm air. I was alone in this office and I could watch everyone else passing through to the luggage area. What was going to happen to my luggage?
Then another woman and a man came. The woman was part of a tourist group and the man was one of the guides. Everyone else had passed because of her, they didn’t know why. Then another two women joined and a couple. I must say it felt a bit better when there were more people waiting.
Then they called my name and I went inside the small office. Behind a desk sat a beautiful blonde woman with a face of stone, and next to her another airport officer (also a woman) who I had already seen walking around. The blonde woman started asking me questions, so fast one after the other that I barely had time to answer. Why are you in Israel? Why are you staying so long? Show me your return flight. How much money do you have with you? Where did you meet this friend? (I told them I’m here to visit my friend Aluma in the kibbuts). How long do you know her? When was she born? (?!?!?!) If you know her for two years, why didn’t you come to visit sooner? What will you do in this kibbuts? I answered everything truthfully. I literally said I’m going to the kibbuts to work with plants, with goats and to watch the stars, to get a break from city life. In the end she asked me for Aluma’s number and called her. I was later told that one of the questions she asked was ‘are you willing to take the responsibility that she will the country after three months?’. Luckily Aluma said yes and the immigration officer was convinced. She gave me my passport back together with a blue sticker, telling me to just go past the security offices and scan the code on the blue sticker to open the gates. Phew! The truth was enough and it was okay.
I went to the baggage belts and looked around for a while until I found my backpack randomly lying somewhere on the floor. “Yay!” I said out loud. Next steps, figuring out how to get to the Tel Aviv central bus station.