A dancer with the Alvin Ailey troupe was forced by Israeli airport security to dance a few steps to prove his identity, since he bears the name Abdur-Rahim Jackson:
Jackson said he was pulled aside from other members of the troupe when they arrived at Israel’s international airport on Sunday night. He said he was taken to a holding room, where he was asked about the origins of his name. When he explained he was part of the dance group, he was asked to perform.
“I stood up. I asked what type of dance?” he explained. “He said, “Just do anything.’ I just moved around.”
Minutes later, he said a female officer put him through a similar interrogation and asked him to dance again. “The only time I’m really expected to dance is when I’m performing,” he said.
Doubtless this story will be used to demonstrate Israeli cruelty, racial profiling, insensitivity, etc. For those who have traveled frequently to Israel, this will come as no surprise. A quarter century ago, I traveled from Paris to Tel Aviv to visit my sister. My bag was searched by a female security officer. When she saw a dress in my suitcase, she closed it and told me to follow her to a holding room.
“Why,” she said in a deep voice, “you have dress?”
“I’m visiting my sister,” I said.
“Her name is what?”
“Ruth Blum,” I said.
“Why her name is Blum and your name is Podhoretz?”
“What name is her husband?”
“Where they live?”
“Derech Beit Lechem in Jerusalem.”
“Where you get the dress?”
“On the Boulevard St. Germain.”
“What was the store?”
I named it.
She took the dress out of my suitcase and held it up against her body, then pulled it away from her to examine it fully.
“How much it cost?” she asked.
And thus I understood: She liked the dress and wanted to take me aside to find out where she might find one.
Everybody who has traveled to Israel more than twice has some kind of story like this. Everyone.