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Verbal abuse, threats, intimidation common for foreigners at Ben Gurion airport

CM 09/11/2021

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Incoming travelers to Israel are frequently subject to abusive behavior by officials from the Population and Immigration Authority at Ben Gurion airport, including threats to handcuff them, ban them from the country and other forms of intimidation. 
Officials from the authority, which has responsibility for granting entry visas into Israel, routinely shout at and demean foreign tourists and Israeli visa holders, confiscate their passports and fail to provide them with any information as to whether they will be allowed into the country for hours. 
Three individuals who recently traveled to Israel have told The Jerusalem Post of what they described as their “humiliating” experience at the airport at the hands of the Population and Immigration Authority officials, with all three stating that they felt they had been treated like criminals. 
Sources familiar with the issue have stated that these kinds of incidents are daily occurrences. 
On November 8, Aaron Ross, an American citizen and university student studying in Israel, arrived at Ben Gurion airport on a flight from the US. 
Ross had neglected to renew his student visa and had also not obtained a COVID-19 green pass certificate, although he was eligible for one. 
Population and Immigration Authority officials berated him, confiscated his passport, and said he was being put on a return flight to the US. 
Ross sought to redress the bureaucratic problems through various channels but needed his passport number and a photo of his passport photo page, but the officials refused to give him back his passport for this purpose. 
“Why are you talking to me… you want handcuffs, you really insisting to have handcuffs yeah?” the Population and Immigration Authority official said to Ross.
After intervention from former Knesset member Dov Lipman, founder of Yad L’Olim organization, Ross’s passport was eventually returned and he was able to arrange the necessary documentation for entry into Israel.
“It’s appalling that these people had so little compassion and so little willingness to help him stay,” said Ross’s father Kevin.   
Population and Immigration Authority official threatens to handcuff foreign student seeking to enter the country (Credit: Courtesy)
“These people don’t know what Israel is meant to be about, they’ve lost sight of the purpose of the State of Israel, no one should be treated like that, Jew or non-Jew, but especially those for whom this state is meant to be a refuge.”
Others were not as lucky as Ross. 
Turid Wolf, 62, from Norway, flew into Ben Gurion on November 3 from Oslo, via Frankfurt, on a Lufthansa flight with her two adult children arriving at around 10 pm, to meet up with her Israeli husband and visit his mother. 
Prior to the flight, Wolf tried to fill out the Health Ministry’s Passenger Entry Statement Form which is required to obtain an entry permit but was unable to upload her vaccination documents through the online form due to technical glitches which have still not been resolved.
Wolf was told by the Health Ministry that she could travel to Israel regardless because of the technical problems and that the entry permit would be arranged upon arrival. 
Officials with Lufthansa and Israeli officials at Frankfurt airport told her the same thing and allowed her to board the flight to Israel. 
When she and her children arrived however they were confronted by hostile officials from the Population and Immigration Authority who reprimanded them for not having completed the form and confiscated their passports.
One official from the authority told Wolf to try and complete the form again, but when she asked for her passport back to fill in the form the official exploded with anger and screamed “You’re not getting into Israel,” and left the area with all three of their passports. 
Wolf and her children were given no further information by any Population and Immigration Authority official from that time onwards. 
They were made to wait in the passport inspection area for over five hours from 11pm to 4:30am without anywhere to lie down, sleep, or rest, and it took an hour and a half before they were provided with water and a sandwich. 
At 4:30am, they were taken to have their hand baggage scanned through security at which point they realized they were being returned to Norway. 
Security officials eventually escorted Wolf and her children through the airport and onto the plane and their passports were given to the flight crew instead of being returned to them. 
“We’re in shock about what happened here, they treated me like a criminal,” said Wolf who said that every official they tried to speak with had been rude, dismissive, and unhelpful. 
“It will be a long time before I can go back to this airport,” she continued, noting that she has been visiting Israel regularly since 1987 and together with her children have always enjoyed their visits. 
“I don’t want to say we’re not coming to Israel anymore, I just want people to be more friendly,” she added. 
And in another case, Lisa Adams, not her real name, arrived at Ben Gurion from Los Angeles, via New York, on November 3. 
Adams, who declined to give her real name since she is in the process of enlisting to the IDF, has a valid student visa but received her last COVID-19 vaccine shot seven months ago and so was barred entry upon arrival. 
Her passport was confiscated, as was her luggage, she was given no information about what would happen and when she asked for help at the Population and Immigration office was told to get out. 
At one point a Population and Immigration official told her that if she did not get on the flight back to the US she would be barred from Israel for 10 years. 
Adams was taken to the departure lounge and left there for six hours without anyone informing her when someone would come to get her, and eventually taken to an airplane for a flight back to the US with her passport handed over to the flight crew until the end of the journey. 
Adams has now had a third COVID-19 vaccine shot in the US and is arranging to fly back to Israel, to continue her IDF enlistment process.
“Their treatment of her was horrendous, they spoke to her unkindly and gave her no information,” said her mother, who also questioned why Israeli officials at the airport in New York had not told her there might be a problem. 
“She was scared, she was crying, she’s a 19-year old, she didn’t know what was happening, she told them ‘I’m not a criminal, don’t treat me like this.”
The Population and Immigration Authority did not respond to a request for comment by the time of press. 

Source: Jerusalem Post

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