That's the name that nearly ended my first trip to Israel before it could get off the ground.
Ahmed—“Excuse me sir, please come this way, yes right over here, and please take of your sandals…”—Namazi.
Mr. Namazi, for your edification, is a bathtub and pipe fitter in Seattle, Washington. He is Iranian and the cousin of one of my closest friends. He’s a great guy. But unfortunately, he has the type of name that makes Israeli airport security guards uncomfortable.
A little background: I met Ahmed (who goes by Al) at a pot-luck two days before I left for Israel, and he handed me his business card in an act of hospitality:
“You can stay with my family if you’re ever up in Seattle,” he said. He circled the phone number.
I happily accepted the card, because I’m the just the type to take people up on their generous offers. And for safe-keeping I stuck the card inside my passport, because I’m also the type whose passport doubles as a wallet and triples as a personal organizer. (I call it my Palm Pilot.)
And there, tucked snugly into my passport, was where the security official from El Al Airlines found Mr. Namazi’s business card when I arrived at the front of his line, to check-in for my flight to Tel-Aviv. The card was wedged neatly between passport pages 10 (declaring my entrance to the United Arab Emirates) and 11 (covered with a visa allowing me 30 days in Indonesia). It was, to understate things, a tangled bit of unfortunate luck, considering the circumstances. And that was all it took: Ahmed Namazi's business card, (with the phone number circled) and the UAE and Indonesian Visas—for me to lose my sandals. You see, none of it looked good to the security agent. At which point I was ushered off to meet the boss—barefoot.
As you might imagine, the security chief for El Al – his shaved dome gleaming, earpiece in, suit cut tight enough to broadcast the presence of two guns – had a few questions for me.