The humiliating treatment experienced by cancer patients at Ben-Gurion International Airport darkened a trip that was supposed to help them forget their suffering for a while.
The story began when 36 young people from the north of Israel
went on a trip to Orlando, United States, with the aid of the Lev organization which supports children suffering from cancer. They were accompanied by Dr. Monique Peretz-Nahum from the oncology department of the Rambam Medical Center in Haifa. Reporter Roi Katz also joined the group to make a documentary film about the trip.
About three weeks ago, when they arrived at the airport, they had to undergo security checks just like all other passengers. Peretz-Nahum told the security staff that three of the group had metal implants which were liable to set off the metal detectors.
The three in question, aged 13, 15 and 18, went through the detector, which emitted the warning sound.
"They told us they couldn't go through, and the head of security was called," Peretz-Nahum said. "She came half an hour later, and meanwhile the rest of the group waited on the other side."
At that point a series of humiliations awaited the three young people. Firstly, Peretz-Nahum recounted, they were told to show their surgery scars in front of everyone. Despite their embarrassment, two did as they were asked and showed the security staff their shoulder and leg scars which testified to the metal implants.
The third refused, because he would have had to take off his pants in order to expose his scars. After a discussion, it was agreed that he would do so in a separate room, with the security staff but without the presence of the head of security.
"He asked me to be present, but the security staff wouldn't allow it," said Peretz-Nahum. When he saw he had no choice, he went into the room alone because he didn't want to hold up the rest of his friends.
Thus, after an hour, which could otherwise have been enjoyed in duty free, the group was finally permitted to continue.
Katz said that in contrast to the way they were treated in Israel, the group was treated with great respect abroad, and when it became known that they were suffering from cancer, they were permitted to enter the Disney World attractions without waiting in line.
At the end of the week they returned to Israel but the humiliation was not forgotten. "I am really angry," said the youth who was compelled to undress. "It was really humiliating."
"It was humiliating and insensitive," Peretz-Nahum said. "Why must they get young cancer sufferers to undress like that in front of everyone? They aren't terrorists. They could have been more sensitive."
"We are responsible for the security of millions of passengers each year, and fulfill our duties according to instructions of state authorities," the Israel Airports Authority responded. "The security staff is required to treat everyone with respect, courtesy and sensitivity. In this case, because of its sensitive character, the head of security was called, and a security check was conducted in a way that respected the passengers and their privacy, with full cooperation from those being checked."