Tania Hisch, a 24-year-old medicine student from Germany, will never forget her ordeal at Ben-Gurion International Airport.
As if having to empty and rearrange her suitcase was not enough, female security personnel at the airport ordered her to take off her clothes, fondled her breasts and told her to bend down to check, with a flashlight, whether she hid something in her anus.
Tania's complaint about being humiliated at the airport on her way back to Germany after a four-month program at the Beilinson Medical Center in Petah Tikva is but one in a series of complaint filed by the German Embassy in Israel with the Foreign Ministry.
On January 4, a group of German students invited to visit Israel by a German school in Jerusalem complained of humiliating treatment at the airport. The group said that two students were asked to strip bare naked.
Other cases include the humiliation of a German citizen at the airport on May 25, 20006. The man was delayed by two hours.
When the man complained about the humiliation, security staff reportedly said, "It is better he doesn't come to Israel anymore."
The German Embassy wrote the Foreign Ministry that although it fully understood the need for tough security measures, "we are not willing to accept humiliating treatment, abuse and lack of respect."
The German Embassy is not alone to complain about humiliation encountered by its nationals at the airport. The Embassies of Spain, the United States, Britain and Chile have filed similar complaints with the Foreign Ministry.
'We have to ask them politely to take off their pants'Most humiliations occur on the way out of Israel, officials in the Foreign Ministry said, urging the Shin Bet security agency to step in and solve the issue.
"The image of the State of Israel is not looking good. There is a feeling that young security workers at the airport are unaware of the damage they are inflicting upon tourists," the officials said.
"With all due respect, we are a country with a Shin Bet agency and not a Shin Bet agency with a country," they added.
The Israel Airports Authority (IAA) said in response that in December last year, the airport ranked first among 40 European airports and fifth among 77 airports in the world in a survey about passenger satisfaction with services at airports.
The IAA added that out of 9 million passengers who traveled through the airport last year, 620 complaints were registered.
"Checks at the airport are based on technology. When a passenger arrived and the system signals a warning we have to check the nature of the warning," an IAA official said. "If something beeps in the hips area we have to ask them politely to take off their pants."
Another IAA official admitted that in some case, security workers act inappropriately, but confirmed that each complaint was checked thoroughly and lessons were drawn to improve the service.