Pincus the Pink Bunny Saves the Day
By Jerry Klinger
This wasn't the first shipment of items I had smuggled
. Ooppps, I meant carried into Israel for Tzedakah reasons. I have carried, books, glasses, clothing, tooth brushes, teaching materials, etc.. But this was the first time my middle aged, pudgy belly and balding gray pate raised the attention of the Customs police.
As usual, I put my bags on an airport luggage wagon with one stubborn front wheel that refused to turn easily, quietly and cooperatively. This time my luggage was two, ok so they were big, large duffle bags. I figured with one black and opened at the top, the other was blueish and opened from the side, I would not attract attention as I headed for the nothing to declare green line at Ben Gurion airport. Freedom for the three hundred stuffed animals was just on the other side of the customs doors. Freedom was to adopting warm loving homes where many little arms awaited my furry secreted and very quiet denizens.
Some had already traveled far and wide. Some had been donated by a wonderful Christian girl who wanted to give her personal collection of stuffed animals that she had so much loved, to be loved anew, hugged, cuddled and snuck into bed to keep secure with the very poor and needy children in Tzefat, Israel. They had traveled from Spokane, Washington to Rockville, Md. They had made it all the way without saying a word or causing a single international incident, almost nine thousand miles, to Israel. They just had to travel another short 150 miles and they would make it.
The animals were very, very cooperative. They did not stir one bit as I wheeled them through customs. The only other luggage was mine, a small black, inconspicuous bag carried on my shoulder and a second small bag with my computer. It was already late in the day and I was one of the last to get the bags. Normally, I try and push through with a large group of American tourists whom I blend in with very successfully. I certainly looked the part.
Just as I was passing the huge bag scanners, large cavernous things with open mouths big enough to scan a small car being smuggled into Israel with the hand luggage, it finally happened. The long arm of the bored but now attentive Border customs police sprang into action.
A man in a dark colored shirt and pants jumped in front of me. One hand up as if he were stopping traffic. He motioned me to the side. Pointing to the duffle bags, he said in Hebrew, put them through the scanner and pointed. I pulled to the side. I was caught. For the first time ever, innocent, inoffensive me was caught by the Customs police suspected of smuggling untaxed, undeclared contraband into Israel for nefarious reasons. Curiously, I actually found my heartbeat getting a bit faster. After all this I did not want the animals to be taken away and put in stuffed animal pounds or even worse. If they had to be ransomed I would ransom them. After all does not the Torah teach that when a Jewish slave in brought into a country by a slaver we have the right no the obligation to buy the slave's freedom. I was going to pay whatever!
Half amusedly, I noted my personal bag with the real items of value, computer, digital cameras, hundreds of dollars and a wad of Israeli currency stashed in different places on me to be given to charities, was not going to be checked, only the animals. I walked behind the guy manning the scanner monitor screen as my furry companions were being x-rayed. I felt for them having their privacy invaded by those untrusting, narrow shifty eyes of the Customs agent. First one bag came through and vague images of green, red and fuzzy furry, hard to distinguish shapes appeared on the screen. They were densely packed and each seemed to be hugging each other in mutual support. The Custom's Police asked me in Hebrew what was it.
It was an old army trick I learned. I just looked back at him stupidly. He asked again. In the few moments since he asked me the first time I did not suddenly learn the language for his convenience. Of course I understood everything he said but I was just a dumb tourist so he switched to a very poor and broken English. What is this he pointed at the screen and the bag that had come through? I told him used stuffed animals for poor children in Tzefat. It was a charity project. He glared at me and said no, they were new Bubboats (dolls in Hebrew) and I was going to sell them. I very nicely said back, no they were used stuffed animals and each had been pre-hugged.
He did not believe me. With a subdued bark he ordered a fellow police type to escort me and the two bags to the side. We were to be unpacked and examined in detail on two long gray metal tables. It was starting to look serious. This guy was right in my face almost nose to nose. Well not really in each other's faces since each of us had big noses and we could not get all that close. But he was definitely very serious about finding evil hidden treasures.
I knew which bag to open first. The blue one with the long zipper on the side had a special animal on top that would intimidate the customs police officer and give me a chance. I went for it with my new, personal space companion, closely by. I unzipped the bag carefully because I did not want to get any of Pincus's fur caught in the zipper. Slowly it opened and within a moment Pincus was there in all his glory. I pulled out a two and one half foot, long haired pink bunny rabbit. Pincus must have understood the problem because he seemed to jump out of the bag and into the face of the police. Pincus stood in all glory in front of the agent with one ear straight up and another pointing dangerously in the agents face. I helped Pincus to get even closer to the guys face. He back away sharply and with a bit of a start. Used pink bunny rabbit I said for poor kids in Tzefat. He had me take Pincus to the side and then peremptorily looked inside the bag to see what other denizens there could be that might attack.
Pleadingly he asked the other guard of the customs smugglers police what should he do. He said they might be new the other guy probably amused by the attack of the obviously used pink bunny chuckled and said let him go. The inspector, not wanting to touch Pincus, I put back him back in the bag by myself. The guard did help me zip it up and tie it with the straps to be sure it was closed. He did not want Pincus to get out.
The duffle bags with the hundreds of stuffed furry friends were saved. They were going to Tzefat.
Pincus was the first to be adopted. A lovely grandmother wanted him for her little granddaughter Aviel. Aviel was almost as big as Pincus. With a hug and a squeal they went home together to share love's warmth in a two year old girl's arms.
The ladies of Lev U'Neshama, (Heart and Soul, the charity I work with in Tzefat) told me that by the end of the day twenty five animals had already been adopted, just by word of mouth.
They said the animals were gold there for the children who have so very little. It was not easy getting them there, it was hard but with Pincus along, he saved the day.
from the August 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine