bradshaw - Haaretz - November 1 2010
Lecturer Heather Bradshaw Photo by Haaretz

Hebrew University filed a complaint with El Al yesterday, accusing its security agents of "offending and humiliating" an American neuroscientist who was a guest at a conference in Israel and boarded a flight from the U.K. to Israel late last week.

The university expressed concern that "senior international scientists will avoid coming to Israel," after Prof. Heather Bradshaw said she was searched, scolded and not allowed to bring her luggage or personal belongings aboard the plane.

In a sharply worded letter to El Al CEO Eliezer Shkedi, Rector Sarah Stroumsa said that "in this instance a red line was crossed" and noted that "this is not the first instance in which researchers and guests of the Hebrew University have been offended by the security staff of El Al."

She added that "unfortunately even university faculty are not protected against offensive behavior which has nothing to do with security considerations."

In response El Al said that the "company operates according to security guidelines of the State of Israel. Unfortunately, due to these checks, there are cases in which passengers being examined are offended. We are deeply sorry for this and doing everything possible to prevent such damage to passengers."

Bradshaw had been invited to the Hebrew University and tried to board EL AL flight 214 last Thursday.

From the start of the security check, she said felt that she was being treated as a suspected terrorist.

Stroumsa said in her letter that the security guards refused to believe that she is a guest of the Hebrew University and did not contact the university in an effort to verify her explanations.

"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that sound judgment was not sufficiently exercised in this case," Stroumsa wrote. She called on Shkedi to take action to prevent the recurrence of such incidents.