Madhavi meets Life // How my Yoga mat suddenly became an obstacle

26. November 2017

A woman in a down coat rushes past me. Puzzled, I assume that she must have caught a flu – why else would anyone wear a winter jacket in balmy 20-degree Tel Aviv? I look around and realize that I am the only lightly dressed pedestrian, strolling through the streets, enjoying the warm air. Everyone around me is bundled up. Winter in Tel Aviv. I get it.

My flight to Israel was an exercise in patience this time. Security has always been a breeze for me, up until last Wednesday. Everything was going smoothly until, during a secondary screening in a stuffy cabin, a combative official stormed into the room. The Israeli guy checking my bag seemed nice enough, but had apparently called for reinforcement.

She held up my mala suspiciously “What is this?” I raised my eyebrows and told her “a mala, for my Yoga practice.” Her tone sharpened “When did you convert to Islam?” I laughed – “Excuse me? Are you crazy?” Bad move on my part – but she was making me nervous, which is her job, I guess.

“What’s so funny?” She hissed at me, and “Are you calling me crazy?” Ok, that’s it I thought. There goes my trip to Tel Aviv, my favorite city. I was stunned: I’m a firm atheist and had no idea where she was getting the Islam thing from (though, to be clear, I have no problem with Islam). Fortunately, the mystery was solved soon.


Hello? I’m an atheist!

“This here is a prayer rug, correct?” Her tone sharpened again. “And those are prayer beads.” I had to smile again “No, no, that’s my Yoga mat, and my Yoga beads.” “Yoga mats look different. And malas do, too,” she snapped. I decided to go the gentle route: “oh, you know, you could be right – one might think that, but in this case, it really is a Yoga rug, which I place on top of a Yoga mat for hygiene. Look, right here under the brand name is the word YOGA.”

Just let me get on the Plane to Tel Aviv!

I still hadn’t convinced her, and she insisted, asking me again when I had converted to Islam. At this point, I’d had enough. I opened the door, knowing that Eva Kaczor was sitting out there, also on her way to Tel Aviv, and called out, waving my mala – “Eva, what’s this?” She saved me, answering coolly “a mala. Yoga beads.”

Finally, the Israeli harpy had to give in and let me move along. At the gate, I saw her again, snapping at one of her colleagues, and thought to myself that these sorts of people exist everywhere – the ones who feel a need to build themselves up by putting others down.

I generally find the security checks to and from Israel quite respectful and usually even friendly. I had quite another experience in New York’s JFK airport a few days ago. Airports are the perfect place to practice patience and serenity. Next time, I’m packing my regular old travel mat though – I don’t need that kind of stress in my life.

P.S. I can’t wait for the flight home –  and maybe I’ll leave my Yoga mat here, I’ll be back in Tel Aviv soon anyway.



© Maria Schiffer

Madhavi Guemoes
Madhavi Guemoes dachte mit 15, dass sie das Leben vollständig verstanden habe, um 31 Jahre später zu erkennen, dass dies schier unmöglich ist. Sie arbeitet als freie Autorin, Aromatherapeutin, Podcasterin, Bloggerin und Kundalini Yogalehrerin weltweit und ist Mutter von zwei Kindern. Madhavi praktiziert seit mehr als 30 Jahren Yoga - was aber in Wirklichkeit nichts zu bedeuten hat.
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