Undocumented in Israel

For my 27th birthday, I got my passport flagged by Interpol. No, I’m not a spy for the CIA or an attaché for an embassy. I’m an international flight attendant, and let me tell you, an Interpol notice on your passport makes it awfully tedious to work.

In May, my good friend Jil and I went to Israel for my birthday. Being Jewish, Jil had previously traveled to the country for her birthright, so we met some of her friends and learned quite a bit about Jewish history. We spent a week wandering the streets of Jaffa, floating in the Dead Sea, and dining on street shawarma. My birthday fell on our last day in Israel, and naturally we went to celebrate with dinner, drinks, and dancing. During the trip, I was the designated passport holder because I always carried a small backpack, and this night was no exception. I am carrying Jil’s and my passports; we were weary of leaving them in our hostel fearing that they might be stolen. The irony is that they were stolen anyway.

We danced late into the night. Jil walked back to the hostel to get some sleep, and I walked a few blocks down to the beach with our friends. My mistake was taking off my backpack and leaving it on the beach while we waded in the waves. I was only ever a few yards away, but when I returned my backpack and our passports were gone. With a sinking feeling and overwhelming anxiety, I dug through the sand, I searched in trash cans, and we asked passersby if they had seen my backpack, but nothing. It was gone. I ran to the hostel, woke up Jil, told her about my missing bag, and receive a stern reprimand, rightfully so. We called a cab and went to the local police station where we spent the rest of the night and early morning filing police reports, taking passport photos, and waiting at the US Consulate for emergency passports.

We did make our flight that morning, barely. Our emergency passports warranted extra security screening and a bit of questioning. When your passport is stolen in the Middle East, it is often flagged to prevent it from being used or reproduced illegally, hence the Interpol notice.  Israeli police eventually found my backpack and passports in a trash can a little ways from the beach, and they mailed them back. Happy birthday to me.

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