Stepping into Jerusalem

Stepping into Jerusalem

At exactly 7am, Tel Aviv time, the Royal Jordanian flight from Amman touches down at the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel. From the air, Tel Aviv looks well-developed with lots of green pastures. It is a beautiful day in late winter with outside temperature hovering around 8oC.

This is the first time I'm setting foot in Tel Aviv. You may be wondering "Why Israel?".

Well, the tour I am on is called Visit And Pray In Three Important Mosques - Al-Aqsa in Baitul Muqaddis (Jerusalem), Masjidil Nabawi in Madinah and Masjidil Haram in Makkah. To get there, we need to transit in Amman, Jordan. There are 20 of us.

The visit, which costs us RM12,000 each, is inclusive of four countries - Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. As we enter the airport terminal via an aerobridge, two Israeli airport safety officers are on standby to randomly stop and question passengers about the purpose of their visit.

The first signboard I see in the terminal building says "Keep To The Right" written in Hebrew, English and Arabic.

The airport is not that busy at this time. Then again, not many airlines land in Tel Aviv. Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air and Turkish Airways are the only airlines from Islamic countries that fly to Tel Aviv.

YOUR FATHER'S NAME At the immigration checkpoint I greet a female officer in Hebrew, "Shalom, boker tov" ("Hello, good morning"). She asks two common questions which apparently are often asked of visitors from Malaysia: "What is your father's name?" and "What is your grandfather's name?".

She then instructs me to go for additional screening at a special lounge in a corner of the terminal.

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