A day in the life of an Israeli customs inspector

Cigarettes rolled in flatbread and puppies in bags are just some of the strange things that customs inspectors see every day at Ben-Gurion.

Sara Rubenstein,

Smuggled cigarettes
Smuggled cigarettes
Courtesy:Ben Gurion Airport Customs

"I opened the suitcase and it was full of laffas (the Arabic word for flatbread)," customs inspector Amir Azran said. "I didn't understand at first - it seemed strange to me. I looked more closely and there was a black plastic bag inside the laffa itself. When I opened the bag I saw tin foil, and when I opened the foil, I saw a carton of cigarettes. Apparently, they were confident that the laffa and the tin foil would obscure the cigarettes. We seized almost 100 cartons of cigarettes and there were also a hundred laffas."

Kan News recently profiled Amir Azran, 33, who works for the Tax Authority as a senior customs inspector in Ben Gurion. He shares that it 's a very pressured job. "How do you decide among the hundreds of people who to inspect? The area is like a pressure cooker, always full of people. I 'm in a situation where I always feel tense."

The video shows Azran stopping a traveler with two packages of cigarette cartons. Each traveler is only allowed to bring in one package of cigarettes into Israel and the traveler will now have to pay a fine of NIS 750 plus a NIS 750 tax.

"Cigarettes are the most popular goods we encounter," Azran says. "The price of cigarettes in Israel is high. Their goal is to bring them to Israel and sell them for a bit cheaper than they're sold for in Israel."

Azran also discusses the phenomenon of smuggling animals into Israel - small dogs - in all types of crazy ways. "We've found them in picnic baskets, in bags, crowded together - some of them already dead. These dogs can be bought cheaply abroad but are very expensive in Israel - costing anywhere between NIS 5,000- NIS 10,00. We've found rare frogs smuggled in somebody's jacket pocket, lizards in socks - we find strange things."

Azran says the challenge is to figure out which traveler to take aside among the hordes of people. "I have to figure it out in the least amount of time - to know which person to take aside to inspect his or her luggage."

Few people are happy about being stopped by customs inspectors after a long and tiring flight. "The Jewish people are very diverse - in their personalities and their reactions. If I could ask one thing from all our wonderful citizens, to disembark from their flight with a bit more patience than they usually do," Azran concludes.