Abdur-Rahim Jackson, 31, was not on the Nefesh 2 Nefesh flight, when he arrived at Ben Gurion Airport this week. No, this famous dancer was traveling with New York’s famed Alvin Ailey dance troupe, as it arrived in Israel to perform in Tel Aviv. Ailey, celbrating its 50th anniversary is in Israel for the nation’s 60th. Jackson, an African American graduate of Julliard, was forced to dance twice at the airport for security officials, who were perhaps confused by his first name.

Alvin Ailey TA Poster

Alvin Ailey TA Poster

After passing the security check, Jackson was taken to a secure area and questioned for an hour about his first name. Jackson told Israel’s Yediot Ahronoth newspaper, “They repeatedly asked me what my father’s name is, …and why they gave me this name.” Jackson handed them a brochure from the troupe the contained pictures of him dancing. One security official then asked Jackson to dance for them. Jackson was then asked to repeat the performance for a female security guard.

Jackson – engaged to fellow Alvin Ailey dancer Olivia Bowman, who is part Jewish – said he was not raised a Muslim.

Call Me Mr Jackson?

Call Me Mr Jackson

Well at least he was not forced to recite the Shema, as I was once asked to do at the border with Sinai in 1985.

Jackson and the Alvin Ailey group performed last night at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Tel Aviv Mayor Ronald Huldai plans to attend the show, as does Shimon Peres
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from the now fabled performance in March 1958, at the 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association in New York. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance. The Israel Airports Authority said, “The details of the incident are unknown to us, and no corroboration was found in the investigation we conducted.



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  • They were not “confused by his first name.” They were harassing and discriminating against him because of his name (and perceived religious background). So, they made him dance. And one security officer suggested that he change his name.

    Kind of outrageous, isn’t it?

  • I was at a panel last night in NYC on Re-Branding Israel, at which a person from the Consul General’s office talked about how successful they were on a spread of Israeli women in MAXIM magazine. I wanted to say, “you can get average American men to love Israel and understand that Israelis are just like americans, except with better hummus, but the second you harrass tourists and travelers, and do it aggressively, and play the victim cards as an excuse for all your actions, then all the MAXIM magazine spreads in the world isnt going to lead to that loving feeling.”

  • Mcor, of course it’s outrageous. But it’s also worthwhile to put it into context. The following is from the article to which you linked:

    Jackson said he did not plan to press the matter further, saying the numerous apologies he has received from American dignitaries and his Israeli hosts is “enough for me.” The Israel Ports Authority said it had no comment because it did not receive a formal complaint.

    The incident was reported in Israel’s largest newspaper and on an Israeli television news and interview program. “The security guards should be sent home or (the airport) will become a mental asylum,” said Motti Kirshenbaum, a veteran commentator and host of the Channel 10 TV program.

    Israel is constantly on the alert for attack because of the Israel-Palestinian conflict and extremist Islamic rejection of the Jewish state’s existence. Security is strict at all entry points and inside the country.

    Israel is famous for the effectiveness of its airport security. But a key element in its security checks is ethnic profiling. The practice has been criticized by Israeli human rights campaigners as racist because it singles out Arabs for tougher treatment.

    Such profiling is illegal in the United States, but Jackson said that the only place he has had a similarly humiliating experience in the past was at a U.S. airport when he returned from a vacation in the Dominican Republic.

    Jackson said that since the Israeli airport incident, the reception in Israel has been “amazing.”

  • One’s protection against unreasonable search and seizure in the US, enshrined in the 4th Amendment, does not apply at border crossings. Security personnel at airports do not have to establish probable cause either.

    But that’s besides the point. One can’t be too over zealous when it comes to protecting lives, but in this case, it was just dumb. I can say though that pretty much everyone in the country has apologized and Jackson’s response was exceptionally gracious. Now can we dance?

    Alvin Ailey rocks by the way.

  • PLus.. one of the great things about Alvin Ailey is that their offices and studio is a block away from a really great Thai restaurant in Hells Kitchen