Sunday, January 17, 2010


In 1980 Jer and I took an organized tour to Egypt and Israel, a tour arranged by American Express. We spent 6 days in Egypt, 2 days in Jordan and then a final 6 days in Israel. We had a great guide – a young French fellow named Louis (Lou-ee, he was called) and we felt comfortable under his shepherding.

Egypt was every bit as amazing as we anticipated. The reason Jordan was on the itinerary was because that is where the famous rose-colored city of Petra is located. From Amman it was a simple bus ride over the Allenby bridge and into Jerusalem, a distance as the crow flies of about 44 miles.

Before we got off the bus at the Israel border, Louie gave us a lecture. He said this would be the most important thing we heard during our time together. He advised that going through customs here will be a rigorous ordeal. He said safety is a primary concern of Israel and we will be asked to do things that may irritate us. He said when we go in the door, we are to put our bags on a table and will be asked to completely empty them of the contents. He said not to ask for exceptions to be made, do not be embarrassed, don’t crack jokes, don’t complain. He said the bags will be taken away and x-rayed to make sure there are no bombs or other such implements secreted in them somewhere. He said our clothing and makeup will be inspected, and when the bags come back we will be expected to repack them and set them at the door to be put on the bus. He said we would be body-searched and perhaps asked some questions. He told us this was not a social event, not to try to make chit-chat with the inspectors, and whether we do things like this in America is beside the point; in Israel this is what they do to maintain the safety of their people, their cities and their country.

We listened to Louis and we were a compliant group. It took a long time to accomplish, but that was not only because of the repacking. Jerry, being the only Jewish soul on the tour, was taken away to what he later said was an interrogation room and there he was questioned about his birth, his parents, his grandparents, his and their involvement in any Jewish activities in both the past and present, and then they looked up his family names in a big black book that sat on the shelves among dozens of other big black books. He did not ask why they were doing this. He answered their questions, and when the Israelis were satisfied they returned him to me. We then were cleared to board the bus. At no time did any of the 40 people on that tour make a wisecrack or issue a complaint. We did what was required of us, even if we didn’t like it.

Writer Thomas Sowell in a trenchant op-ed piece this week says this: “We have become so obsessed with political correctness that both common sense and self-preservation have to take a back seat. We don’t dare “profile” anybody going through security checks because that’s not politically correct. Far better to be blown to smithereens than to be politically incorrect.” Sowell is a political conservative and mostly says things I disagree with. But I think he hits the nail on the head in this piece.

He ends by saying, “Terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Conventions for the simple reason that they do not abide by the Geneva Conventions. They are enemy combatants and you do not turn enemy combatants loose to go back to killing Americans while the war is still on – not if you are being serious, as distinguished from being political or ideological."

I understand the need for political correctness, and I think even in its extremity it helps us become more sensitive people and more aware of the reasons that passing time requires changes. But I don’t think one needs to be stupid about its application. We need to be willing to “turn the other cheek” on this one!

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