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December 21, 2014 1:42 pm

Gifts From Americans to IDF Soldiers Stuck in Customs, Now Headed for Destruction

avatar by Dave Bender

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IDF soldier at Lebanon border fence - illustration. Photo: Dave Bender.

IDF soldier at Lebanon border fence - illustration. Photo: Dave Bender.

Hundreds of personal gear kits donated to IDF soldiers by pro-Israel groups in the United States have been stuck in customs since August, and will most likely be destroyed, Israel’s Channel. 2 News reported Sunday.

During this summer’s Operation “Protective Edge” in Gaza, concerned Israel supporters put together some 600 sets of mens’ and womens’ field toiletries kits which included, among other items, personal wipes, razors, toothbrushes, lipstick, talcum powder, bath gel, and shaving gel.

The total shipment, weighing in at some 400kg, arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport in August. Since then, however, the goods have been stuck in a bureaucratic black hole.

The Libi Fund (“The Fund for Strengthening Israel’s Defense”) – an organization that collects donations for IDF soldiers locally and abroad – was asked to provide details of the products as required by the customs broker which received the goods. The organization claimed that it offered a partial list of the gear, but that customs officials required more detail – which was problematic due to the kits’ sealed packaging.

In addition, on Dec. 4th, a letter was sent to the fund warning that if a warehousing fee — which has been growing since August — amounting to over 10 thousand shekels (about $2500.00) wasn’t paid soon, the goods would be destroyed.

An official at the brokerage company made it clear that Libi must find a way to provide full details about the shipment to prevent its destruction.

“If we do not receive the proper paperwork, we will have no choice but to have the goods destroyed,” the official said, noting that while talks between the sides are ongoing, the clock is ticking.

However, the brokerage’s CEO asked for leniency. “Customs should perhaps make an exception in this case, because these are all the details Libi could provide,” he said.

Libi, for it’s part, suggested appointing an IDF officer to manually open all of the packages in order to list the exact contents.

“At the moment, I do not have the ability to present an accurate list of the equipment, including amounts,” the fund’s CEO, Lt.-Col. Raanan Simhi, said.

“We had never had a shipment to us destroyed,” Simchi said. “It’ll be an absurd situation if that happens, since this equipment is meant for combat units. I can only hope that this saga will be speedily concluded and the donations reach their intended destination.”

A source involved in the customs side of the imbroglio said that “there is no alternative to providing an accurate itemized list, and some items may require getting a stamp of approval from the Standards Institute.” However, the source expressed the hope that a senior official will intervene and release the shipment, due to the fact that it is for soldiers.

According to the Tax Authority, during Protective Edge, dozens of private donors and NGOs sent donations from around the world, both by mail and by messenger.

According to the authority, customs officials did everything possible in order to release the shipments as quickly as possible, and added that, in many cases, the goods are considered as tax-exempt donations, since they’re going to troops.

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