Harish, Israel The Israeli airport

May 26th, 2002

Harish, Israel

The Israeli airport security is unprecedented. Last time, I was thoroughly searched and my tulasi leaves for Giriraja were mistaken for marijuana. Only after they were chemically analyzed was I released from security. This time I wore nondevotional clothing, including a hat, to avoid attention. Like all passengers, I am asked a few questions before they x-ray my luggage. I am not sure why?maybe it’s because my place of stay was an obscure village near the West Bank or because I am not used to wearing anything but devotional clothing and what I scrape together to wear still looks somewhat out of the ordinary?but I was casually pointed to the special security line. My computer was tested and I was asked if I sent any emails from Israel. I said yes, and they asked to see them. My screen opened up to my suspicious looking opening journal entry:

“There are no markets, malls, or hospitals for people to assemble, so the devotees feel safe that it is a very unlikely target for a terrorist attack. ‘If someone is going to sacrifice their life,’ they say, ‘they want an adequate return of carnage. They will only attack places where masses of people assemble, not here.'”

Fortunately, she just glanced to check the origin of the entry and didn’t focus on what it said. Otherwise, I am sure there would have been further interrogation.

I leave Harish at 4:30 for the long flight back to the U.S. Sitting next to me on the flight are a young American couple?typical young, rich,liberal, Jewish college graduates in jeans, t-shirts, and sandals. The husband, however, has a very small yarmulka (a traditional Jewish skull cap) pinned by a hairpin to the top of his bushy, disheveled, and fairly long hair. He is friendly and I find out that he has just been in Israel for a year studying to become a rabbi at the Hebrew Union?a reformed (liberal) Jewish seminary. He is a very nice person, but sentimental. I am surprised that despite his studies his philosophical conceptions are very shallow. My mood,however, is respectful. Over the years I’ve grown to a more accomodating view of religion, and I appreciate those who are devoted to God regardless of their faith. I listened patiently to his understanding but it was obvious that his understanding of his own tradition was not only unsubstantial, but also very much affected by his own new age liberal prejudices and conceptions. I patiently asked questions that might help him think more deeply about his convictions, Finally I asked, “What is the attainment of your practices in reform Judaism?”

“Every reform Jew has his own attainment,” he responded. I was shocked by his lack of reasoning for a group is defined by its common practices and goals. I was not in devotional clothes, but I did share with him that I was a Hindu monk. When he asked me if I still considered myself Jewish, recalling his statement about how every Jew has his own attainment or spiritual goal, I responded, “Yes. I’m in your group, but my attainment is Krishna.”

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