233% custom embroidered teddy bear tax

Long ago, around February or so when my daughter Dafna Betty was born, my cousin Ginny decided to send us a gift from America. We told her not to do anything that crazy, but instead to buy something from Israel, because sending something from America is asking for trouble. A few weeks later I got a package slip notifying me that something was waiting for me at the post office and that I would have to pay 274 shekels to see what it was. That’s about $70.

I didn’t even bother to even attempt to pick it up because I wasn’t going to pay the government anything for my right to accept baby gifts, certainly not 274 shekels. And where the heck did that number come from anyway? Who decided it was 274, and why?

Eventually my landlord, with whom I share a mailbox, told me that the post office was getting angry because I wasn’t even acknowledging that I owed them 274 shekels, and that I should tell them what to do with the gift. I responded that I really didn’t care what they did with it, I’m not paying them anything.

Eventually, I had to go to the post office to pick up my glasses I ordered from China for $10 which work great. Glasses are about 20 times more expensive here, money I’d rather not spend. I got lambasted at the post office by the woman who told me I was taking up room in her post office because I never picked up my other package. I said I didn’t want the other package. She asked why. I said because I don’t want to pay the customs fees. I didn’t even know what was in the package or who sent it.

How it works in Israel is that if you feel the government has wronged you, you can fax in a complaint to an office about why you should not have been required to pay the customs fees. If they feel like giving you the time of day, they will send you a refund. I’m sure this works great. Nevertheless, I didn’t attempt to use this system.

Today I got a phone call from my mother in law who informed me that the gift was in fact two stuffed teddy bears embroidered with the names Tzitzia and Netanya, one for each of my daughters.

Their names are Tzivia and Dafna, but close enough. (Both were born in Netanya so Ginny got that right. And I in no way am demeaning the gifts. In fact, I can’t wait to pick them up when I get to the US because now there’s a story behind them. When Dafna asks me why she has a bear with the name Netanya, I can tell her that she was born in Netanya, and she’ll think that’s pretty cool. No one else has a teddy bear indicating their birth city.) My guess is they’re worth about $30 for the custom embroidery. So the 274 shekels would constitute roughly a 233% custom embroidered teddy bear tariff.

Well, I guess the Israeli government has to try and rip me off for my teddy bear importation. They do have a lot of $100 Katyusha rockets to shoot down with $1 million precision guided missiles. Somebody’s gotta pay for that. May as well take it out on the damn bears.

Hey, at least our budget’s balanced…more or less.


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