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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Border Police? What Border Police?

I went to a friend's apartment today. She was having some custom work done on her bathroom, and at the suggestion of her contractor, she called a guy who lives in Jerusalem to give her an estimate on a bathroom counter.

The guy comes and gives her the estimate. Turns out the guy DOES live in Jerusalem but in one of the Arab neighborhoods because, well, he's an Arab. Nonetheless, he came highly recommended by the (Jewish) contractor, his price was reasonable for both the material and the installation, and he could get it done quickly.....important if you only have one bathroom and need it in good working order.

So today, because she was alone at the apartment, I offered to come over and sit with her while the workers delivered her bathroom counter. I met them outside to guide them into the apartment while she made coffee for everyone.

To my astonishment, when they opened their work van (one of those big Savanna-type things), it was packed to the gills with large clear plastic bags stuffed with tin cans.

Recycling? I wondered.

The workers proceeded to offload the myriad plastic bags until the only thing left in the van was a tool box and the counter, buried under all those bags. The guys picked up the counter-top and carried it into the apartment.

I told Yossi and the Husband about my friend and her counter, and in what must have sounded like quintessential American babe-in-the-woods naivete, I asked why the workers would cart around a pile of tin cans to be recycled?

The Husband, having lived here before, simply laughed at me. Yossi, who refrained from laughing but who must at times like this think I'm incredibly dumb, explained:

"The Arab has a factory in Aza or in Chevron or Bet Lechem, Sarah. Probably it belongs to his family or to friends. The countertop is made there. That's why its not expensive. Then to get it into Israel, he has to drive it from the factory to Jerusalem to your friend's home. He has to get it by the Border Police--so he covers it with bags of trash."

I was astounded. "That's it?!" I asked, somewhat rhetorically, "That's all they have to do to sneak something over the border? Pile trash on top of it?"

Used to the border crossing at Tijuana, where I've actually watched the border police disassemble cars, I was appalled. Even on ride-alongs with the police in the various departments I've worked with, I've seen more thorough searches of suspect vehicles.

"WHAT are the guys in the Border Police doing?" I asked aloud. "Why isn't anyone searching the van?"

"The policeman looks in the back window, maybe opens the back door, sees a lot of bags filled with aluminum cans, and waves him through," Yossi said calmly, lifting an eyebrow with a cynical what-were-you-expecting glance.

"What if it was a bomb instead of a countertop? What if it was a bunch of suicide-bomb belts instead of construction material?" I asked heatedly.

Yossi just shrugged. "It's not hard to smuggle something into the country, Sarah."

I was hot at that moment, blaming it on lax security procedures.....but then again, for all I know, the Border Police did open the vehicle, did see the countertop under the trash, and waved the driver through anyway because it wasn't a bomb.

At least I'd like to think that the police in charge of border security and counter-terrorism are doing their jobs thoroughly enough that we're not in danger from their laxity and boredom. I'd like to think that......


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Aliyah06,


Laxity? Boredom?

Guess what? I live in your neighborhood and serve as a volunteer in the Border Guard. I've got a few things to tell you.

Firstly, believe it or not, we are not the tax authorities. We actually couldn't care less about Arabs bringing in countertops. (Ha, I guess the joke's on them! :)

What we do care about is weapons and bombs. We've got a lot of training and experience that teaches us how to spot which Arabs are just day laborers bringing in countertops and which ones are criminals or terrorists. When we find a suspicious vehicle, you can bet that we most certainly do take it apart right then and there, and if it's got weapons or explosives in it, we WILL find it. It would be nice if we could do this to every vehicle that crosses the border. But that would require, at least, 100 times more of us than there are.

Which brings me to my next point.

While you sit comfortably in your home and accuse us of "laxity" and "boredom", we are out there stopping the people who are trying to kill you. While you sleep, we are hiding in wadis in the cold and wet and catching illegals trying to get into Jerusalem. Many of us do this all night long and then head out to jobs in the morning. What we do is difficult and dangerous. It would be awfully nice to hear just a little bit of gratitude from those we protect, instead of cheap insults based on stupid assumptions. You want us to stop and tear apart every truck with a countertop in it? Then while we're doing that the terrorists will be slipping right by us, and it's you, my friend, that they'e coming for.

Back to my point about there not being nearly enough of us. There aren't. There are Mishmar haGvul units in and near jerusalem that accept volunteers in good physical condition up to age 55. This means that instead of making snotty comments about things and people you know nothing about, you or your husband or wife can actually lend a hand and make a positive contribution to our safety.

If you have the guts, that is. Or would you rather just insult the people that risk their lives every day to save yours?

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 10:21:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another comment while I'm at it. Did you know that a few months ago two Border Guard soldiers were shot just a few blocks from where you live? Pop Quiz: Do you know there names, where they're from, or whether they lived or died? You do know, of course, that it was YOU and your family they were protecting?

Any possibility of a kind word here from you?

Here's a real suggestion: find out who they were, post a blog entry about it, update your readers about how they are doing and why it happened. Yeah, it will take a bit of work. Don't you think it's the least someone can do?

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 10:37:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

I'd like to believe you--I come from a family of cops and military, so I'm very appreciative of the risks that are run daily by such folks. Let's face it though--the Border Police have taken quite a few hits in the last few years for what could mildly be called "unprofessional behavior." Thus, its not beyond the realm of speculation in this blog that someone fell down on the job and DIDN'T look in the back of the van.

The fact that you, personally, characterize legitimate questioning as to how these items entered Israel as "snotty comments" tells me that you're a tad defensive about this....I can sift through here and pick out the more constructive of your comments, but your points would have been more clearly made if you had approached this with a more even-handed address instead of trying to steamroll with a personal attack.

If the priority is to search for bombs, explosives, weapons and ignore smuggling of countertops, that's fine with me, too--I agree: you're not the tax authority.

The problem is that from here, I don't know WHICH is true--that you looked, didn't find a bomb but only a countertop, and let him through, or you did NOT look....either interpretation is possible, and I addressed both.

And save the sarcasm--my husband isn't "sitting comfortably at home" since he is also a volunteer with the Jerusalem Police. We've both been in the law and order business for about 30 years, so a piece of advice---if you're waiting for "just a little bit of gratitude" from those you protect, you need to get into a different line of work---in almost 30 years, my husband and I can count on one hand the number of times someone said anything resembling "thanks."

Yes, we're aware that two Border Police were shot near us--we had the windows open and could hear the shots fired. They were shot near Jebel Mukaber while interdicting a terror cell. My recollection is that they were ambushed as they surprised the terrorists, but it was a while ago so I could be incorrect. I don't recall their names at this time, but I knew it then, and also was aware that the officer hospitalized was a Druse.

Maybe YOU should start a blog---detailing the work of the Border Police, your encounters with people, the risks run, the shots fired, etc. You've got enough in this comment alone for a single post.

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 5:59:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Legitimate questioning" about what? About somebody letting through a COUNTERTOP? Give us 100,000 more MAGAVniks and a few billion NIS and we'll set up machsomim at the entrance to every city, stop all the cars and make traffic ten times worse, and start doing the work of the tax authorities. In the meantime, wherever you're living, it ain't reality. Period.

And anyone who is out there risking their lives to defend yours absolutely deserves your thanks, even if they sometimes screw up, as by the way everyone does, at one point or another. Many regular Jerusalemites thank us all the time. If you can't bring yourself to do that, at least have the decency to keep quiet. Or if you think you can d better, what are you waiting for?

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 6:59:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Yes. "Legitimate questioning" is exactly what it is when a citizen asks how an Arab resident of East Jerusalem can bring in any object buried under piles of tin cans.

Your explanation, if I can characterize it as such, is that you are understaffed and underappreciated.

I can do nothing about either of these things. The staffing is up to the government, which seems bent on spending more money to uproot settlements and make nice to the Arabs than to fund our teachers or law enforcement. (My husband has told me that the equipment used by the Jerusalem Police is old and inadequate as well, and they too have their staffing problems--you're not alone in that.)

Don't make up stuff. No where did I say that people who risk their lives to keep the citizenry safe don't deserve thanks....what I said was, based on my and my husband's experience in law enforcement, dont EXPECT thanks. That you get any at all speaks well for Jerusalemites.

Yes, everyone screws up from time to time. I've done it myself. The difference between the grocery clerk or the waitress screwing up, and the Border Police screwing up is that in the latter case, people die.

Whether or not you agree with what I post, I intend to continue to post my opinion--that's what a blog is for. If my opinion offends you, don't read the blog.

But while we're on the subject, tell us something: can a bomb or its component parts be fitted into empty cola cans and be smuggled into Israel disguised as garbage?

I'd like to hear your answer, because I've been down to the police department at Jaffa Gate, and I already know the answer. It's "yes."

...which I think brings us back to my issue of "legitimate questioning" of what's going on at the borders.

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 8:17:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger Commenter Abbi said...

sounds like a guy who loves to hear himself talk.

Monday, December 3, 2007 at 8:49:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we, the Border Police, checked every Arab car that came accross the "border" like it should be checked, there would be a line 8 kilometers long every hour of the day.

As it is Israeli's complain at check points if they simply have to apply the brakes (just to slow down as they pass the maksom).

If we were to check every Arab vehicle inside and out you would be writting a blog post complaining that we check the cars too well. It is a no win situation.

However when we do stop a suspicious vehicle on the other side of the check point, it gets a thorough search. But we just don't have the man power to get every vehicle (and we are volunteers that add manpower to the full time forces).


Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 9:44:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger Unknown said...

Note: "Countertops" are not illegal in Israel and it is likely the Border Guard officer saw it and let it through (as I would as well). Our job is not to look for "deadly counter tops" but for guys that want to kill un-appreciative complainers like you.

BTW: Only in Israel, will the citizens you are protecting, stop and yell at you for protecting them at a checkpoint (because they had to wait 90 seconds to pass).

It seems the blog world has no shortage of unapreciated fools.

What is really funny is that you, or your friend, hired the very guys you are complaining about? You or her, obviously weren't worried about them brining a bomb to fix the house.

BTW: they now know where you live, how to get in and the layout of the floor plan. You don't think they take that intel back to the village with them?

Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 10:03:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


For your information, Arab residents of East Jerusalem carry Israeli ID cards. Unless they are coming from somewhere on the other side of the fence or from the rest of the shtachim, they do not normally pass through checkpoints. If you feel East Jerusalem should be more effectively isolated from us, I would certainly not argue with you, but that is a matter for the political echelon, certainly not policemen in the field. Other than random checks and stopping of vehicles that seem suspicious, there is no way to inspect all vehicles coming in from East Jerusalem. You asked whether bombs can be hidden in something as small as coke cans. You know the answer to that: of course. But again, stopping every Arab or Arab vehicle is, as Jamie pointed out, vastly out of the bounds of physical possibility. So the police and IDF use intelligence data and their experience and training in spotting vehicles that seem suspicious. This is obviously never going to be 100% effective, but the percentage of attacks that have been stopped this way is very high.

It is useless to argue that every vehicle should be inspected unless there is some way to do so, and keep them from entering unless they pass through a manned checkpoint. The former would require many more people than we have, and MAGAV is already understaffed for our job. The latter would require the fence to be completed. As things stand now, there are many many spots where Arabs can drive right from Area A (under full Palestinian control) directly onto highways leading into Jerusalem. If you don't like this, it's the politicians that you need to complain to.

As things stand, the fact that cars get in uninspected is hardly the result of laxity among the people of the border guard. On the contrary, we have to think very carefully about which cars we stop, for the obvious reason that if we spend half an hour tearing apart a vehicle, countless others will be passing us by in that time, and the real terrorists may be getting away of we make the wrong call.

Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 10:19:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ask "why wasn't anyone searching that van" and "what if it was a bomb instead of a countertop"?

Firstly, understand that the vast majority of vehicles are not searched. No police force in the world has the manpower to do that. So yes, this is a game of statistics and instincts. Welcome to Israel. Ya rolls the dice and ya takes your chances. Don't like that? You can encourage more people to join the Border Police, or vote for a different government, or start convincing your friends to stop employing Arabs from East Jerusalem or over the Green Line.

Your second question implies that the Border Police should be searching for every countertop lest it be a bomb instead of kitchen equipment. This is false logic, for the simple reason that if we did that we'd get stuck tearing apart maybe 1-2% of incoming vehicles while the rest whiz right on by. Israelis in Jerusalem would die in far greater numbers than they do, and Mishmar haGvul would amass an impressive collection of countertops.

That's not what you want. Is it? is it?

Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 4:18:00 PM GMT+2  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Okay, guys, listen up:

(1) I didn't hire these guys, and thought it was stupid that my friend did---but she in turn was hiring a countertop guy who is an Israeli resident of East Jerusalem (complete with ID card and yes, I already knew the East Jerusalem Arab population has those), has a business here, and was recommended by her Jewish contractor;

(2) Arab countertop guy let slip that his workmen were held up at the border crossing from the Territories, otherwise my friend and I wouldn't have known the countertop came in from Chevron or Bet Lechem instead of East Jerusalem; then when I saw the pile of tin cans on top, the pieces started to come together.

(3)I do not (and no one else that I know) expects the Border Police to search for countertops or other mundane items--if you'll look at the post objectively, you'll see that I suggested that the cops SAW the countertop and let it through precisely because it wasn't a bomb;

(4) Searching every Arab vehicle is admittedly unworkable--the question was whether or not THIS vehicle was searched with an eye towards checking for explosives or their components. THAT was and is the question, and while I'd LIKE to assume that (a)the vehicle was checked and passed because it only contained a countertop, I don't know that for sure; and (b) even if the countertop was passed, did anyone take any steps to check the cans? Or do we take the Arab driver's word for it that the cans are "only" trash?

I'd like to think that the sight of a large van driven by an Arab worker with his workcrew which appeared to be hauling ONLY trash to Jerusalem across the border might raise a few eyebrows...wouldn't it?

(5) I assume any Arab favors Hamas, regardless of which side of the Green Line he lives on--largely because (a) Hamas won a majority of the vote and (b) Fatah is corrupt and weak and (c) because Hamas has proved that they'll kill you if you don't get with the program. Again, I didn't hire these guys and told my friend she was a dope for doing so.

(6) I can't do a thing about the current government funding for police (and other priorities) except vote the idiots out of office next time I get the chance....but the Border Police might get more volunteers if you up the age limit and don't insist on a minimum volunteer commitment of three times per week, which is what we were told when we asked about it. My husband, who could bring years of SWAT and drug interdiction experience to the Border Police, was told he was too old to volunteer with MAGAV.

(7) I have no argument with either the proposition that the Fence should be completed or that the Border Police should be better funded (along with regular police, teachers, etc.).

Thursday, December 6, 2007 at 6:34:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Despite all the posts made here, you seem to have not understood the main point everyone's been making (sigh), which is that not all cars can be checked, and no, we do not have the manpower to check or even spot every vehicle that hauls garbage or countertops or whatever. Thousands of Arab vehicles come into Jerusalem every day that don't even pass through checkpoints and many parts of the city are wide open to traffic coming from Arab areas. I can see that you wish things were different. So do I. We are not the people who created these facts or allow them to continue, we are the ones who have been keeping you alive in spite of them. Thank us. I believe in you and I know you have it in you. :)

Also, your information about volunteering for MAGAV is incorrect. They take volunteers up until 55 (in one case I have even seen them take someone older)and only require a minimum time commitment of about 12 hrs per month, which is one or two shifts. This may vary among units, but those are the current rules for the volunteer units in Jerusalem.

Sunday, December 9, 2007 at 11:00:00 AM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

looks like your over educated i am better, smarter, and can write better than you mouth, overloaded your large bovine ass.who cares if your a lawyer and and pick apart every little thing someone writes or says. and attacking other people in one form or another is your history.

Sunday, December 9, 2007 at 11:53:00 AM GMT+2  
Blogger aliyah06 said...

Anon 11:00 -- you're right, we were misinformed if that's the requirement for volunteering; and I DO get the point that there's no way to check every car. I think this is a frustration that all you in the Border Police share. I know the Border Police didn't create this problem, and you haven't been given enough tools to solve it...and yes, I am grateful and I think most Jerusalemites are as well. My point wasn't that every car should be searched--I was just appalled at how easily these guys seemed to get stuff in.....and as so many of you have pointed out, that's because our government hasn't made a priority of funding our security and police apparatus.

All I can do is vote against a government which is so careless of its citizens lives.

Please overlook Anon 11:53--she's not well and not on meds for her mental condition. When she gets like this, she likes to spew venom and hate and hide behind "anonymous" -- but the lack of education (spelling, punctuation, grammer) the wording, the lame insults and the jealous resentment are always a dead giveaway.

Sunday, December 9, 2007 at 2:32:00 PM GMT+2  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Understood (about the dec. 9 anonymous post - it was obvious. :))

For more info about how to volunteer, anyone can contact

Monday, December 17, 2007 at 12:11:00 PM GMT+2  

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