What a Trip Israel is (1)

A Fictional Story about Ari’s Upcoming Trip to the Holy Land

Ari has been frustrated with his on-again, off-again fully-paid trip to the Holy Land. The Israeli Consulate was giving him the run-around and blaming the budget cuts and the labor strife for the delays. The Iranian.com readers were anxiously waiting for the fact finding trip and the reportage. They had already submitted lots of questions to Ari and wanted his unbiased opinions. Ari finally got on the phone and called Senator Feinstein’s office and complained. A day later the Israeli Consul General called Ari himself.

“Shalom Ari! I sincerely apologize for all the delays. I have your ticket to Ben Gurion here in front of me. We also have hotel and meal vouchers for you. You are all set to go!”

“That’s great news! My readers at Iranian.com were getting restless. Is the ticket round-trip?

“Actually, no! You will get your return ticket in Israel. We had a problem with some of our visitors on these free trips hopping off the plane in London and never go to Israel! You know, the Jewish people sometimes get too smart for their own good! Just call El Al’s call center and they will take care of it for you.”    

A week later, Ari hauled his suitcase through the dark and narrow hallways at LAX to get to El Al counter. A security guard with an Uzi looked him over suspiciously. An agent greeted him. “It will be $100 baggage fee, $50 for cavity search, $50 for interrogation and $20 departure fee! Visa or Master Card?”

“This free trip is getting expensive and I haven’t even left California!” Ari thought to himself.

At 35,000 feet and flying over the Rockies, Ari was sandwiched in a middle seat in between two Farsi-speaking Mosad agents. “Mr. Ari, I see that you speak fluent Farsi. Have you ever thought about going back to Iran and help topple the Regime? We can help you with the logistics. If you know what I mean!”

“I am a peaceful person and don’t like guns or violence; bows and arrows only!”

“Sir, would you like chicken and couscous for dinner? That would be $15.” The stewardess asked. “I have a meal voucher from the Consulate. Here.” Ari handed the voucher to her. “I am sorry sir! This voucher is only good for non-kosher meals. Everything is kosher on this flight per Rabbi Rubenstein’s supervision. $15 please.”

Ari and the 10-member California delegation cleared the Customs at Ben Gurion and met their Palestinian minibus driver Rasool by the curb-side. “Welcome to the Occupied Palestine Dear Americans! Let me have your vouchers and $10 luggage fee per person.”

“Mr. Rasool, I am one of the Iranian brothers! We give you millions of dollars every month. Why the $10 charge?” Ari asked. “Welcome brother! That money goes to Hamas. I switched sides last year and now PA pays me. My cousins in Gaza get the Iranian money. They all drive brand new Mercedes Benzes; couldn’t get the family-size Benz through the tunnel, they had to settle for the sports model!”

Ari continued the interview with Rasool as he drove through the narrow and crowded East Jerusalem streets. “Are you sure this is the right way? This place looks very dangerous.” Ari was worried. Then all of a sudden a group of young kids with rocks in their hands jumped in front of the minibus.

“Don’t worry my dear American passengers. The school is out so the kids are on the streets making some money. I see my 12-year old son Osama in there. Let me see what he says!”

“Hey Osama come here and say hi to the Americans! Americans are good people. We like Americans not their foreign policy.” Rasool talked to his son for a minute. “He says 50 Shekel per passenger. What’s the exchange rate Osama?”

The minibus stops in front of Jerusalem Motel 6. Ari says good bye to Rasool and goes to check-in counter.

“Mr. Ari, welcome! My name is Jasem. Would you like the upper bed or the lower one?”

“I am sorry Jasem, I don’t understand.” Ari looked puzzled. “Your voucher is good for a room with 2 bunker beds; two people on top, two in the bottom!”

“I need my own room. I cannot shack up with three other people. I am an Iranian brother.  Can you help me out?”

“It is the peak season here. All the Moldovan families are staying at the hotel. But just for you, my Iranian brother, $150 per night. I even throw in the free access to the Hospitality Suite on the top floor. Make sure you get there early for Friday Lunch Buffet. We get a good view of the Temple Mount. It is the best place to watch the police beat up protesters after Friday prayers!”

Ari got a good night sleep and was getting ready for a busy day of fact finding. But first he had to call El Al and make sure that his return ticket was ok. He called the El Al’s call center. A guy with thick Arabic accent answered the phone.

“Good morning El Al, this is Yehuda, how can I help you?”

“Salaamon Alaikom, this is Ari. I am one of the Iranian brothers. Can you help me with my ticket?”

“Of course brother, just call me Nazeem. Let me check your reservation…..I see, you got one of the free tickets by the Consulate. The next available seat is in 2 months!”

“But I need to get back in a week. I need your help brother. We support you guys you know.”

“It is the peak season and the Moldovans got all the seats. There is only one way that I can bump somebody and give you priority. If you sign a contract with the government and move into a large 4-bedroom house in the occupied West Bank in the next 6 months, I can get you a ticket anytime you want. The only catch is that you have to get married and have at least 8 kids!”

“You know, I have learned everything that I needed to learn about here. Just give me a ticket on the first flight out whatever it costs! I am getting out of here!”  

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