Ben Gurion Airport
A security check at Ben Gurion International Airport. Photo by David Bachar

Nothing changes around here, and if something does, it's for the worse. The world goes on as usual, and no one really knows why. We could behave differently, it's just force of bad habit that we don't.

I published my first article in Haaretz 27 years ago. No article since received so many outraged responses. I fear this article will be read and go by without the blinking of an eye.

"Don't touch their hair," was the title of the article. It was about journalist Lutfi Mashour, his wife Vida and their two little daughters, Yara, 12, and Varia, 10. Lutfi is an Arab, a Palestinian, a Christian, and an Israeli citizen. He is also a friend of mine. Lutfi, who was also the owner of a popular Arab-language newspaper published in Nazareth, died six years ago, felled by cancer.

He bequeathed the management and editing of the newspaper to his wife and daughters, and they have done well. The three women also now publish a successful women's magazine, Lilac, which sells well in Israel, Jordan and the territories.

Twenty-seven years ago, the family traveled to the United States to attend a relative's wedding. Coming back to Israel, they went through an El Al "security check," which included invasive questions, ripping their suitcases and turning their possessions upside down.

But the security people were still not satisfied. They explored Lutfi's testicles, as if our national security rested there. And that was not the worst moment. Before boarding the flight, the security people remembered the little girls - they might pose a danger to us - and they began going through their hair.

The next day, back in Israel, Yara and Varia went to school. That same day, researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem visited the school. One of the questions they asked was "what does a Jew look like to you." Yara, who had Jewish neighbors and guests in her home, replied: "A Jew is a man who humiliates other people."

In my article at the time I wrote: "Don't shove your hands into people's hair. One doesn't find anything in girls' hair, except for Jewish memories. And besides, experience teaches that when one searches a child's head, terrible thoughts take root there. They can even grow many years later."

Yara is no longer a girl. Do the math. This week she went to Milan on business, and history repeated itself. But a moment before she entered the cubicle for the body check, she stopped and asked for her passport back. No, she won't fly El Al. She returned to Israel Tuesday on Turkish Airlines.

Yara won't undress any more. Maybe childhood memories flooded back; maybe she remembered her father's words: Don't ever again allow people to touch your hair or anything else.