Abu Ghosh restaurateur: Airport security humiliated my wife

Jawadat Ibrahim says officer told him ‘El Al not intended to serve Arabs or Muslims’; IAA: All passengers undergo same security checks

Illustrative: Diners sit in the Abu Ghosh Restaurant, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, November 20, 2013. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)
Illustrative: Diners sit in the Abu Ghosh Restaurant, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, November 20, 2013. (AP/Sebastian Scheiner)

The Israeli Arab owner of a famed restaurant has complained his wife was humiliated by airport security at the Ben Gurion International Airport recently. The airport rejected the accusation and said all travelers are subject to the same stringent security checks.

Jawdat Ibrahim, owner of the “Abu Ghosh” Restaurant in Abu Ghosh, said airport security personnel “treated my wife like she was a terrorist.”

His wife, Tanihalak Ibrahim, a Thai woman who converted to Islam, was planning to travel to Bangkok on Saturday to visit her family. Jawadat and two of his children escorted her, and began feeling uncomfortable soon after Tanihalak started going through security.

“The security officer went to his superior and then returned and asked to take the suitcases for an X-ray. We said that was no problem, ‘you need to do your job.’ He saw on our passport we are from Newe Ilan [a Jewish community adjacent to Abu Ghosh] and asked where it was. I told him it was next to Abu Ghosh and he said he didn’t know where was Abu Ghosh. Then the officer made a racist remark, he said he didn’t understand why we are flying El Al because it is not intended for Arab travelers or Muslims and we should fly other companies,” Ibrahim told Ynet.

His wife was later taken to a full body search, in which “they told her to take all her clothes off and take off her bra. She wanted to call us but was forbidden from using her cellphone. Then a security officer took her to the plane and sat her at the back of the plane, even though she had a seat she booked in advance in the front of the plane. She cried the entire duration of the flight,” the restaurateur said.

Ibrahim filed a complaint over the “humiliation” of his wife and complimented the airport for “taking my complaint seriously and conducting a thorough investigation of what happened.”

He said the airport’s security chiefs called him to apologize for the incident.

The Israel Airports Authority said in a statement that it “invested millions in technological systems that are among the most advanced in the world” for examining travelers and their luggage without discriminating between members of different religions, gender or race.

The IAA “is sorry for the passenger’s feelings following the security check, but according to procedures, objects that raise suspicion during examination require another check to make sure that the security of the flight is uncompromised, as is acceptable all over the world.”

The authority insisted that “at no point were any hurtful remarks made to the traveler. The authority checks passengers in all airlines to the same degree.”

Abu Ghosh is an Arab village outside Jerusalem which is often cited as an example of successful coexistence.

Residents of the village, some of which are Christian and some Muslim, have always been on good terms with the Jewish population and during the War of Independence remained neutral.

As a result the village has thrived and is considered a center of Middle Eastern cuisine and the Mecca of Hummus in Israel. It is one of the most affluent Arab villages in the country.

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