Inspectors conducting a routine check at the Al-Zayim checkpoint at the entrance to Jerusalem were concerned when they noticed several suspicious packages in the storage area under a public bus.
The suspicious packages were found to be carrying unusual cargo: 60 kilograms (over 130 pounds) of fresh fish.
The fish were being delivered from Tiberias (Tiveria) to Jerusalem in an apparent covert smuggling effort. But instead of being packaged carefully on ice in secure containers, they had been simply shoved into plastic bags, which were in turn stuffed into regular cardboard boxes.
Inspectors determined that the fish had become dangerously unfit for human consumption due to the poor storage. They were taken from the bus and destroyed.
Checkpoint personnel detained the bus driver, a Tiveria resident in his 40s, who admitted that he had planned to bring the fish to Jerusalem shops, were they were to have been sold to the public.
Ro’ee Kliger, who heads the Agriculture Ministry’s branch for law enforcement, warned that attempts to smuggle potentially dangerous food – particularly meat and fish products – are on the rise due to the upcoming Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Sukkot.
Demand for meat, chicken, fish and honey is particularly high in advance of the holidays.
Agriculture Ministry officials have issued a warning to consumers to purchase fish and other animal products only at stores that have been authorized by government officials as meeting health guidelines.