Israel Detainment

Kayla Rosen. (Chase Stark)

When I made the decision to fly across the world to intern at The Jerusalem Post this past summer, there were many things that I anticipated beforehand.

I anticipated that the scorching desert sun would be tough on my pasty complexion. I anticipated that working as a reporter would bring many obstacles (I know a grand total of five Hebrew words). And, having been to Israel twice before, I anticipated that the security presence would be far more intense than what I see in Canada.

But there’s one thing I never could have predicted: getting detained by the Israeli police.

It was the end of my second week at The Jerusalem Post and I was sent to Tel Aviv by the news editor. I was covering the opening of a museum exhibit that honoured the life of Yitzhak Shamir, a former Israeli prime minister. Since I was still new to the country and wanted to make sure that I made it there in time, I left my apartment early and ended up arriving about an hour before the event’s official start time.

Out of fear of seeming too keen, I decided not to go directly into the event, but instead found a nearby bench, took out my notebook and wrote some notes to better prepare myself.

This was not my first time sitting on a bench. Throughout my 24 years I have sat on hundreds, maybe even thousands of benches. I have never regarded it as a suspicious act. Apparently, not everyone holds the same view.

About 45 minutes before the event started, I was abruptly approached by two men who asked me what language I speak. After I told them I spoke English, they informed me they were the police, showed me their badges and asked to look at my passport. They began to sternly ask me a series of questions about my age, nationality and what a random Canadian girl was doing sitting on a bench in the middle of Tel Aviv.

It has always struck me as odd that on TV shows, like Law & Order: SVU, the police are met with such anger and disdain during investigations. Generally, I am an obedient person who respects authority. But during my police detention even I found myself frustrated and exasperated with the line of questioning.

These two police officers couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around the fact that I was not on Birthright, an organization that provides Jewish young adults with free trips to Israel. They repeatedly asked what had prompted me to leave my Birthright group, even though I had informed them that I went on Birthright years ago and this was not the purpose of my current trip.

Another point of confusion seemed to be the concept of journalism as a whole. After I told them I was there to write an article about the museum exhibit, they asked, “What do you mean, ‘write an article?’” I thought I had made it abundantly clear.  

Now in all fairness, I did not answer every question with the utmost precision. When asked where I was from, without thinking, I answered, “Toronto,” which technically isn’t true. I live in Vaughan, and I was too scared to correct myself, so I just silently prayed they wouldn’t pick up on my mistake. They also asked me how old my passport is and, brilliantly, I replied, “It’s new-ish.” Take it from me, the Israeli police do not appreciate the term “new-ish.”

After about 40 minutes of this questioning they got in touch with my boss at The Jerusalem Post, realized I was who I said I was and let me go. I made it to the event with about five minutes to spare.

Many things shocked me about this experience. I am shocked that a five-foot nothing girl, who often gets mistaken for a 17-year-old, was seen as a threat. But mostly I am shocked that I didn’t burst into tears, because I legitimately cry at the sight of a golden retriever puppy.

Whenever I tell people this happened, the first thing they ask is, “What did the police think you were going to do?” Truthfully, I have no clue. After they released me, I didn’t stick around to chat with them about their thought process. But what I can say is that, when travelling around the world, you really never know what’s going to happen.

Kayla Rosen is a Master of Journalism candidate at Ryerson and was the Print Managing Editor at The Ryersonian. She has interned at Elle Canada, Flare, The Kit and The Jerusalem Post. Her interests include pop culture, fashion and religion.

One Comment to: Detained by the Israeli police

  1. Shawna Gorsky

    September 15th, 2016

    I don’t understand what this article has to do with anything relevant to Ryerson or Toronto as a whole for that matter.


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