Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Marsom Cheirut ("Checkpoint Liberty")

Hey there,

This is my blog entry for this week.

It is based on personal experience, and while it may sound like opinion, it's not so much intended as criticism than as a testimony to how ironic it felt.

This is written for an Israeli audience, hence the references.



Marsom Cheirut (“Checkpoint Liberty”)

Countless rows of people are waiting here in line, like every day. Bored. Two men speak in Arabic, sounding baffled. The crowd slowly marches through the lines, under the watchful eye of the armed security staff manning the checkpoint. Backpacks and luggage are not allowed in. You’re supposed to store them in biometric lockers after having had your fingerprints registered. Food and drinks are also a no-go.

Everything here was designed to be terror-proof: you can’t get in the checkpoint without the proper access badge; you’ve already been X-rayed and searched once, sometimes asked personal questions if you weren’t lucky. Whatever you’re carrying with you that did not end up in the trash or the locker goes through a second round of X-rays, while you’re ordered to step through a chemical scanner portal puffing air to detect potential molecules of explosive substances.

Then you’re through the checkpoint and its one-way paneled windows.

And finally you’re in – not in Israel crossing from Gaza or the West Bank, but in the Statue of Liberty in New York, crossing from the Liberty Island grounds.

The original torch now stands in the monument’s entrance lobby, enlightening its own sheltered innards rather than the outside world, in a somewhat ironic metaphor. Lady Liberty is under heavy protection these days, and it is actually impossible now to walk up the stairs leading up to the crown and the torch. You can see the way, but a glass ceiling blocks the way – literally.

Park Rangers invoke restrictions imposed by risks of fire – the staircase was still accessible before 9/11 though, but was never reopened. As with other things, maybe once they’ve taken it away they’ll never give it back… After all, even the Democrats seem ready to extend the federal wiretap powers, according to yesterday’s edition of the New York Times, by “fear of appearing soft on terror”.

Looking towards the city from the statue’s pedestal, the Twin Towers are still missing in Manhattan’s skyline, revealing more than anything else about the current security level.

“It’s not climbing it that’s important, it’s what she stands for,” one Park Ranger threw at us, obviously irritated by our insistence. Looking back down at “Marsom Cheirut”[1] where the flow of tourists has started dwindling, one can’t help but wonder if this is what she’s supposed to be standing for today.

Earlier, as she was going through security, my secular friend with strong Middle-Eastern looks removed the scarf protecting her neck from the cold breeze. “If this is religious attire, please keep it on,” an embarrassed security officer had scrambled.

They had me take off my baseball cap, probably in case I was hiding C-4 there. Next time I guess I’ll just demand they respect the fact I’m a devout Yankee fan and Joe Torre’s my name for God… They might call me a loser, but maybe they’ll leave me alone.

[1] “Checkpoint Liberty”. In Israel and the Palestinian Territories, checkpoints are referred to as “Marsom…” followed by its name.


*lgs said...

I like the first couple paragraphs especially, Tony. The way you set up the expectation and then knock it down is very effective.

A. Loeff said...

Nice. Good job!

Ju said...

I concur. I was drawn in from the first word!