Well, after my grilling at the airport in JFK, I wondered if I would be escorted right out of the airport and sent home. They wondered why I had all these stamps from Arab countries in my passport, why I was travelling alone, just what I would be doing in Israel, my past work experience, my life story, my income, my first-born, etc. It was unbelievable. I didn't break down however and did not say that I was coming to live in the West Bank and study Arabic. (although they probably know it now after monitoring this blog).
It turns out they thought I was a less dangerous terrorist after all and just escorted me and a Palestinian family to the gate and waited with us until we boarded the plane. After that harrowing experience, going through customs and passport control in Israel was a walk in the park. They barely looked at me and asked me a couple mundane questions.
In Tel Aviv, I jumped in a minibus headed towards Jerusalem and stayed at the Olive Tree hotel. (I had booked a much cheaper room at the Mt. of Olives hotel, but it was in an "Arab" area and the minibus driver refused to take me there.) I heard my first Muslim prayer calls last night in a long time, and chuckled at the strange juxtaposition of the wailing from the mosques and Jews decked out in their shabbat white and black suits, huge fur hats, and sideburns down to their shoulders.
Ah, it's so good to be back!! Today I'm off to Ramallah with a Palestinian who works at the hotel who attended Birzeit University himself and said he would take me. The adventure begins!!