WHAT ABOUT ME THREATENS YOU MOST?

Farrah El-Jayyousi (Columbia, Missouri)

“We know about the Gaza protest in 2014. Aside from that, what other protests were you a part of?”

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“Why do you hate us?”

“How are you today?”

“Do you think we’re stupid?

“Do you know any BDS supporters? What are their names?”

These are just some of the many ridiculous questions I was asked while being questioned for thirty minutes and detained by Israeli border security for five hours after arriving in Tel Aviv Monday. In comparison to many others detained for questioning every day by Israeli border security because they are perceived as Arab or Muslim, I didn’t have it too bad. I was questioned only once, and had to wait in “the room” for no more than five hours after traveling for over eighteen hours. And I was let in.

The fact that it could have been much worse, through no fault of my own, is absolutely absurd.

I approached the passport control window and handed over my passport just like I have in many countries in the last two years. Instead of the standard questions of “What is the purpose of your visit?” or “How long will you be here?” I was asked “What is your father’s name?” and “What is your grandfather’s name?”. My answers of “Jalal” and “Thaher” were apparently all the woman behind the window needed to confirm that I should be questioned further in order to determine if I was a security threat. So, just like all but a couple of people on our eighteen person delegation, I was told to go wait in a room comprised almost entirely of people of color.

So I sat. I waited. And I chatted with one of my fellow delegates about Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events, and the Hunger Games.

At some point during my questioning I developed a tremor in my hands. This is a normal reaction to exhaustion for me and, as a person with two chronic illnesses, not a rare occurrence. By the time I was allowed to return to the relative comfort of the room, it had developed into tremors and shaking throughout my whole body. At a point where I had no control over my body or my situation, I turned to God and recited the following prayer that resonated with me and grounded me in the moment: O Allah, You are my strength and You are my support. For Your sake I go forth and for Your sake I advance and for Your sake I fight.

I will leave you with some questions I would like to pose to Israeli border security:

What about me threatens you most? My Muslimness? My womanness? My Palestinianness?

Do you think I’m naive when you tell me you don’t want to turn me away? When you try to play at being friendly?

Who taught you to practice such an extreme form of hate?