It was interesting to read Peter Goldman's letter {Jan. 11} regarding his recent trip to Israel, in which he informed us of the sentiments of certain Israelis: ''If the Jewish state is to survive, the Arabs must go.''

I, too, visited Israel -- last summer. My three children and I crossed the Allenby Bridge from Jordan in a bus with some 30 other tourists. Though we were entitled to enter as ''foreigners'' because we are American-born, while the other bus passengers were proc-essed through Israeli customs my children and I were held back because of our Arab name.

From a roomful of adults, my 10-year-old son was selected to remove his shoes and to accompany an armed soldier to be strip-searched. I asked for an explanation -- nobody else was removing his shoes or being physically searched -- and was told that if I wanted to proceed through customs, I and everyone connected with me would have to be strip-searched. My alternative, I was told, was to reboard the bus returning to Jordan.

I asked to see the soldier's superior. He, in turn, informed me that we would all have to take off our clothes or else return to Jordan.

By then, my teen-age daughter and son were embarrassed, and my toddler was screaming from being confined in the small customs area. But I was committed to visiting an ailing relative in Jerusalem. I agreed to be searched. My son was taken into one room and my two daughters and I followed a female soldier into another. In the two hours we waited for our suitcases to be inspected, I watched two other bus loads of tourists clear customs.

I told the soldiers that as a U.S. taxpayer whose government has donated millions of dollars a day to Israel for economic and military purposes, I was disappointed at the treatment we were being given. The soldier's reply was that were it not for Israel, America could not survive. (I subsequently saw countless T-shirts in Jerusalem souvenir shops sporting a cartoon of Uncle Sam with the slogan: ''Don't worry, America, Israel is behind you.'')

Yet, despite my anger at the four-hour delay, I believe I came away from the experience with more than Mr. Goldman did on his visit. In an exchange that could have ended in mutual animosity, both the Israeli soldiers and I, in airing our respective views, eventually conceded that we were all decent people trapped in a bad situation. We parted on a conciliatory note.

Perhaps if more people with sentiments like Mr. Goldman's could find it in their hearts to try to understand the plight of others, we'd all be better off. KATHRYN ABDUL-BAKI McLean