The new frontiers of Israeli (public) diplomacy, ctd.: Finnish travel agent humiliated after admitting that her fiancé is Egyptian
A travel agent from Finland was humiliated at the Eilat airport. She was stripped, her bra was taken for x-ray by a man and her personal effects were corrupted. She claims the reason for the nightmare is that she has an Egyptian fiancé.
The Israel Airport Authority: the case will be checked
Itamar Eichner, Yediot, May 25-10 [Hebrew original here and at bottom of post]
A travel agent from Finland who visited Eilat with a group of travel agents from her country filed a strong complaint to the Israeli Embassy in Finland that she was severely humiliated during the security inspection at the Uvda airport when she was on her way back to Finland.
In her letter, Hannah-Maria Raudnafe, who works at a large and well-known travel agency in Finland, said that the problems began after in response to a question by the security inspector she said she has an Egyptian fiancé in Finland. From that moment, she says, she underwent “invasive questioning and rude and racist inspections,” and was treated with “a lack of elementary courtesy.”
Her suitcases and bags were taken from her without her approval and opened without her presence. She was stripped and her brassiere was taken by a man for an x-ray inspection in a public place. The inspection took an hour and during it she was given no explanation why she was being inspected. Furthermore, she received no response when she expressed her concern the airplane would take off without her.
In the end woman was sent to the plane without her two suitcases, her laptop, expensive jewelry and a wedding dress she bought in Eilat. After she returned to Finland she had to go to the Helsinki airport twice to receive her personal belongings. When she received the suitcases she found out that all of her belongings were bent and some of them were torn, broken or corrupted.
“I and my fellow travel agents will not be able to recommend travel to Israel. We personally will avoid it in the future if that is how they treat tourists,” she wrote.
The Israeli Embassy in Helsinki received two other complaints from Estonian nationals who flew from Talin to a holiday in Eilat on a charter flight and had similar stories. “The ambassador in Finland and the representative of the Ministry of Tourism in our area worked hard to set up Finnish charter flights to Eilat. An investigation is needed so that such events do not recur and the activity does not stop,” the Israeli Embassy in Finland stressed. The Ministry of Tourism invested millions of shekels from the beginning of the year to establish marketing agreements in dozens of countries. Impressive results were achieved in the Scandinavian countries and important agreements were signed.
Israeli Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov strongly condemned the event. He said “it is time for the government authorities in general to understand that tourism is a national resource, not a burden. The tourism industry is responsible for creating jobs and increasing state revenues and is an effective tool for improving our image in the world. Behavior that makes a tourist feel unwanted harms the efforts of the tourism ministry to increase the flow of tourists to Israel and causes Israel grave damage, both to its economy and to its image.”
Tourism Ministry officials said they received other complaints by tourists of rude treatment by security inspectors at the Uvda airport.
The IAA said in response: “The IAA operates on the directives of the directing bodies. The details of the case will be checked and if necessary acted on.”