Welcome to the borderland!

As experienced in earlier visits, travelling to Israel may come along with a rather rough welcome from the border authorities. Being European and therefore used to free and unrestricted movement within Europe and tragedies along it´s southern borders, one starts visualising how millions of migrants are treated upon their arrival to the desired countries and, at least partially, get an impression of how they might feel. Holding a European passport, however, still privileges one and besides some delays there are no serious implications, probably very different to people from other parts of the world.

Anyway, if there is evidence in your passport that you have been visiting the wrong countries, entry to Israel can become tricky, and, as said above, a first impressive evidence of the borderland. Airports are a simple but common appearance of the borderland. Because they are usually located in the middle of nation-states, they represent a border amidst a continuous territory, not at its fringes.

With stamps from `enemy-countries´ one obviously represents a potential threat to the state of Israel and has to accept severe questioning through tough border agents. The procedure, one which I so far only knewn from movies, seems to have two main goals. The first is to check whether the person is involved in any activity that could possibly be in support for Palestinians, which apparently at the same token means against the interest of Israel. The second appears to be a preventative one. As practiced by search engines, all sorts of (a)social networks and the likes, the border authorities aim at getting as much information out of you as possible. This information can then be used for example to prevent people from boarding an airplane, departing towards Israel, even in Paris, London or Frankfurt, as happened about a year ago.[1]

This expansion of the Israeli border towards European airports is a vivid example of `borderland´ at the other end of the spectrum, the extension of nation-state borders to far away elsewheres. Another interesting detail regarding this shifting of borders was that the agents interrogating me strongly emphasised the power of Israel and the influence of their state, even in Great Britain and Austria, by pointing towards the Israeli flag and a picture of Netanyahu on the wall. The message was: don´t feel safe in these countries, we have the power to deal with you wherever you are.

welcome to tel aviv

© borderlandlevant

Also interesting was the physical setting of all this in some kind of a no-mans-land, with a corresponding architectural atmosphere. From the regular queue to enter the country, people who are suspicious are taken to a nearby waiting room. This space is separated from the main hall in an improvised way, with temporary walls and an open ceiling. On the benches there are people – all of them non-Israelis, at least this afternoon – waiting until their “case” is being processed. For some it only took a couple of minutes until they were granted permission to enter the country, others were waiting for hours. The offices where the actual interrogations take place are narrow rooms without windows, a desk, three chairs, a computer, the Israeli flag and, … right, a picture of Netanyahu. Highlighting the international atmosphere in this no-man´s-land, – is this Israel at all, or where is one in this waiting zone? – the unavoidable Coca Cola soft-drink machine was serving those who were lucky enough to have some shekels in their pockets. On a TV-screen football enthusiasts were satisfied with a Spanish Copa del Rey match between Real Madrid and Celta de Vigo. Ronaldo (Portuguese) and Khedira (German with Tunisian roots) scored the goals for the team from Madrid. Real won 4:0, I got my passport back and was allowed to enter Israel.


[1] The Israeli interior ministry has sent blacklists to European airlines, asking to not let these people board the airplanes, because they are involved in anti-Israeli activities. Thereby the so-called “flytilla”-activists were prevented from reaching Israel and the Palestinian Territories, where protests were planned to support the Palestinian case.

See Ha´aretz article from April 13, 2012: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/european-airlines-cancel-tickets-of-pro-palestinian-flytilla-activists-1.424137

All rights reserved: Sigi Atteneder, 2013

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2 responses to “Welcome to the borderland!

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