TABA: The X amount of hours I spent waiting with friends to cross the Israeli border from Taba flew by due to pleasant conversation, trend-watching, and sheer mockery of our predicament. “Flew by, like a chicken flying to Denmark.
I do, of course, know exactly how much time I spent in the waiting station, roving between the plastic stadium seats, questioning room, and outdoor sauna, but don’t wish to deter potential visitors.
Our “breakfast club of blacklistedees consisted of a Spaniard waiting to get to a wedding ceremony (he’d been to Syria), an Australian waiting to meet his girlfriend in Tel Aviv (he’d been to Syria and Lebanon), a Euro-Lebanese expat couple waiting I think to get to a hotel room (they were Lebanese), and us three girls (nefarious for unknown reasons).
The Australian was cheerful and understanding of the Israeli security measures, explaining how they had to be conservative to guard against terrorism.
The first thing we noticed was how trendy the uniforms of these teen security officers were. While uniforms are almost universally asexual, the Israelis have opted for an ultra-low-rise pants code for the girls. Just in case you don’t take them seriously enough though, their big, brooding sunglasses ought to do the trick, transforming insecure flirting teens indoors into cocky, intimidating men and women outdoors, where the initial questioning takes place.
The next thing we noticed, which was hard not to notice really, was the omnipresence of Crocs shoes. For the uninitiated, Crocs are ridiculously ugly, brightly colored boating shoes, oversized and punctured with air holes for “advanced toe-box ventilation. The trend originated among youthful urbanites (probably) and spread, apparently, to Palestinians and Israelis alike in a rare show of unity, even if in bad taste. Father wears a big blue pair and his tiny son wears yellow. Hipsters in Tel Aviv sport them and religiously veiled Jews and Muslims do too.
But, alas, they remained ugly no matter how many feet donned them.
After reaching about the 23rd Crocs, we were offered a cup of water by the ‘nice cop’ security official, who was intent on letting us know that there were cuddly, good-hearted Israelis out there who really did care about the dryness of people’s mouths.
Still it was clear they cared more about our Western compatriots than us Arabs, effusively apologizing to them: “We’re so sorry, we know how long you’ve been waiting out here. Actually, we all arrived on the same bus meaning that our waits were equivalent and equivalently worthy of apology. But perhaps it would be unfair to scream racism. Let s not underestimate the power of gender dynamics – it s possible that the female guards treated the Westerners better because they were men.
On the other hand, an irate, incredulous male Arab diplomat was also kept waiting (though less than us), so we ll never really know whether it was racism or sexism.
By this time, our Australian friend had already exchanged words with one of the off-duty guards who made the mistake of taking his seat while he was getting food. “I’ve gotten quite comfortable there, it’s like home now. “Why aren’t you laughing at my jokes? . I don’t think it’s funny either.
It was clear his sympathy for necessary Israeli security measures was eroding.
The only thing keeping him from turning back to Egypt again (where he had already extended his stay waiting for his girlfriend), was the appointment he had to meet with his girlfriend flying in to Tel Aviv.
The Spaniard though, kept his cool, thinking through the detrimental consequences of Israel’s actions. By not experiencing the Jewish food and traditions at the party portion of the wedding, he reasoned, Israel was missing an opportunity to win over a neutral party of one.
Slowly we made ourselves at home on our narrow strip of the border crossing station until it had looked like we’d been camping there – clothes on the floor for cushioning, communal biscuits for sustenance, and mp3 players for entertainment. Incidentally, the expat Lebanese couple had also made themselves comfortable.
Fortunately for the non-Arabs, their grandfathers’ names must have checked out because they were given back their passports before us. Our Spaniard though, had missed his wedding ceremony by then. And the Australian, we learned later, had a fight with his girlfriend after crossing in, during which she decided she was not going to go to Tel Aviv after all.