It is easier to fly, as Ahmad is home safe; I feel that if something happened, he will be with the boys, so I am unusually relaxed about the travel. Flight to Amsterdam is uneventful, and Jenny and I study our Arabic. We had a 5 hour layover, so we went into Amsterdam Central for lunch. Doreen, Stacey, and Carol flew to Amsterdam earlier, to visit Carol’s daughter Mindy.
Jenny, Eileen, Susan, Jan, Ayesha, and Gail and I went to town in a huge rainstorm, while Judy and Joya went separately. Not a good start. It was Jan’s 50th birthday. We had lunch and stopped at a Food and Weed cafe, where the others shared a very large and legal joint. I didn’t, as I recall that getting stoned made me very sleepy and I wanted to be alert for the second leg.
Back at the airport, the whole tone changed. Security, obviously Israeli-trained, accosted us in line, interrogated and frisked Judy. What had been exciting and positive turned suddenly to fear, suspicion and threat. We watched as an elderly Hebrew-speaking couple was interrogated and the wheelchair-confined woman was taken into a freestanding frosted glass cell in the lounge area, and apparently strip-searched, as she screamed. (Is this a harbinger of what is in store?)
Arrived at Ben Gurion Airport at about 1:30 AM. It was very busy; there were numerous “checkpoints” inside the airport. I felt extremely anxious after having had NY training by Jack and Elena and Lysander re: BG interrogations. But we got past customs, just ahead of Gail. Eileen and Susan, who had come as a group with Gail, waited near an ATM machine. We waited there for about 1/2 hour, finally realizing that Gail had been intercepted by security, and decided to get out of the airport as quickly as possible. It was a maze of aisles, and somewhere near the exit, Eileen and Susan vanished. Jenny and I rushed outside where Judy and Joya were standing, near the shared vans. At about 3: 30, we decided to go to East Jerusalem and wait for Gail – to the Knights Palace – at least there was a telephone there. It took about 1/2 hour – 40 minutes, but it was a poignant introduction to Jerusalem. As we walked through silent ancient streets, many seemed an arm span’s width – stone buildings, stone walls, stone cobbles, stone stones, it felt dreamlike, except for the Israeli driver and some Orthodox passengers going to West Jerusalem.
Knights Palace: a lovely centuries-old building that appears to be a former Greek Orthodox monastery. Oil paintings of knights and religious figures, armor fill the hallways. Downstairs is a beautiful plant-lined courtyard with tables for the breakfast buffet each morning. The staff, acquainted with ISM, stayed up all night and let us in. Eileen and Susan arrived at 5 am and Gail showed up close to 7. At the airport, Eileen and Susan had stopped to use the bathroom and when they came out, security was waiting for them and spoke to them by name, as part of Gail’s group, and interrogated them about Gail, who was being treated harshly and accused of – who knows what? When she arrived, she was undaunted but ultimately shaken by the accusations and threats: “We are watching you – we know where you go, who you are with…” We also leaned that the other Ann, who had arrived earlier, had been grabbed and was in prison. She was bombarded with similar accusations, told she was being deported; she refused and was jailed. She was to be our videographer. I had her backup camera, a little Sony DV Handycam. So I guess I am doing some video.