Okay! Maybe it was not Mossad. Maybe it was Shin Bet. I really wanted to ask them but I was not brave (read, stupid) enough.
It all started when I had the bright idea of going to Apollonia National park with friends, Slash (name modified) and Xiaolin Zeng for Rosh Hashanah or the Jewish new year. In Israel, a holiday means a holiday for (almost) everyone; there is no public transport. Hence we had to cycle to the spot to start with. I was too lazy to follow the map and Slash was enthusiastic about it; hence he was our leader. A beautiful cycle ride along the Mediterranean sea lead us to the park. It was beautiful but not very pleasant. The sun was pelting us with hot coals and the slopes continued to drive us up and down. Also part of the trail was sandy and made it impossible to cycle on. We decided to take another path on the way back; Slash mentioned that there seemed to be another way.
The park draws its name from the Greek god Apollo; the town surrounding this area was named so by the Phoenicians (an ancient civilisation) in the 6th century BC. But that is not what it is known for. Apollonia national park holds the remenants of the crusader castle located on the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Wait what are the crusades? Long before Islamic terrorism was in vogue, people had eyes to recognise other forms of terrorism. The crusaders were Christian war mongers who ravaged large tracts of land for (not really) unknown reasons (consider news articles like http://www.christianheadlines.com/blog/afghanistan-growing-number-christians-unease-muslim.html
and ask yourself how is it that there a growing number of Christians in the first place?). Anyways, I am losing track. They chose a nice tract of land in Apollonia (now Arsour) and fortified it. And then a lot more history which I do not have time to get into.
After a nice ice-cream break we began heading back. Our new route took us through surprising terrain; we passed farmlands, weird bridges, shopping malls and then suddenly there was a “Restricted Area” sign followed by a post stopping us. Cars were coming by, beeping some card and then passing by. There was a button for the speaker and Slash began to speak.
Speaker: Something in Hebrew
Slash: Something else in Hebrew
Speaker: More Hebrew
Slash: (Gives up.) Can you let us pass?
Speaker: More Hebrew.
Slash: We want to go to Tel Aviv. Can we pass?
Speaker: Who are you?
Slash: We are from Tel Aviv university…
And so the conversation continued for a few minutes. I think among the three of us (Slash, Xiaolin and me), I was the only one who had seen the restricted area sign earlier. It was all becoming too weird when suddenly two fancy looking cars came by and a man rolled down his windows pointing us to a sunny area. Slash was still struggling with the speaker phone and I informed him that we had real company.
We walked to the said location and keeping our hands clearly visible; the car door opened and I saw large guns straddle out along with rather suave-looking men. My first reaction was instant admiration. I have always wanted to be a secret agent all my life; some one who works on super secret stuff which is super important and can help nab super bad guys. It was like my meeting with superstars.
They asked us to leave our bicycles on the side and follow them. We were separated and then started the interrogation. We were each questioned by different people several times. They would ask the same question again and again in different forms.
Question 1: What did you eat in the morning?
A few question later: What was your breakfast?
Question 39: How did you get here?
Question 2830: What led you here?
Question 281388e^9: What did you eat before leaving home?
Each person who interviewed me took down detailed notes and there was someone who cross verified them with some more interrogation. This was all in the hot sun with no respite. I noticed that my friends were getting slightly irritated but what could be done. As an honest mathematician I tried to distract them with some mathematics but that did not work so well. Well!
One thing that must be added is that they were extremely well-behaved and in the end offered us some cool water (I wished that they had offered us some food as well; the ice-cream had long disappeared). This was remarkably different from my experience in India (with the police):
As an undergraduate in Bangalore (now Bengaluru) I would often go with friends for movies in the city. It would be late in the night and my institute was in the outskirts; we were too cheap for the autos and too late for the buses; hence we would walk all the way. A number of times, we encountered unpleasant drunk stick-wielding policeman (so called highway control); I will spare you the details
In another instance, not so long ago I applied for a fresh passport having exhausted my previous one. This was a tatkaal application and had to be followed by police verification; I called policeman up since I was leaving for Israel and he replied irritatingly “No no no no! Don’t worry.” The policeman came to my place 4 months later and my mother was extremely happy: “The man did not even take a bribe.” Now I have a negative report against me in India and the Ministry of External Affairs is threatening to impound my passport. In contrast, once when I was stuck on some Canadian street with my friend with more than we could dream to carry a couple of policemen gave us a lift in their car!
You can now guess what I was thinking: https://youtu.be/07AP_BcB0ng?t=36s
“Don ka intezaar 11 mulkon ki police kar rahi hai…” (“The police force of 11 countries is waiting for Don.”
After about a couple of hours of interrogation; we were in turn asked to sign some document which said that we were arrested but not harmed. Suddenly I became scared:
My doubts were cleared and we were shown the correct way back to Tel Aviv. There is so much I wanted to ask in return for the interrogation but muffled my voice down.
After I got back home, my advisor gave me a call.
Advisor: “Hello Nishant. I heard that you, Slash and Xiaolin were trying to break into some military facilities today…”
I am glad that they were so rigorous; this only helped instil a feeling of security in me. I am happy to be safe, secure, back in one piece awaiting with abated breath yet another adventure.