Striding through the nothing-to-declare line at Ben Gurion airport, they looked like nothing as much as American Jewish tourists from the greater New York area. (We’re not exactly sure where they were from, but who knows? Maybe they’re from North Jersey.)
In fact, that’s who they were. Tourists.
But they also were smugglers, taking part in a crime wave with roots in China.
Or at least a crime trend, one that has ensnared at least two American couples and more than 650 pounds of contraband, motivated, apparently, by a trend circulating on the China-based TikTok social network.
It is clear from the video of the crime scene posted by Israel’s Mako news website that the criminals have only a vague awareness of the root causes of their actions.
The video shows a customs official at Ben Gurion International Airport sifting through three open suitcases, each filled with hundreds of Fruit Roll-Ups. An American-accented voice off screen explains, in a mix of Hebrew and English, that he brought the snacks across the ocean for his family in Israel.
When the customs official asks if the man packed clothes for himself, he responds that he has clothes in Israel.
Why did he fill his two checked bags with Fruit Roll-Ups?
“It has something to do with ice cream,” the man’s voice says.
Since March, a viral TikTok trend shows users wrapping the sweet, sticky roll-up around a small scoop of ice cream. The roll-up then freezes over and becomes hard and crunchy.
Harmless fun — but a gateway, it turns out, into a violation of Israel’s import statutes, which limit bringing in more than 1 kilogram — 2.2 pounds — of any one food product, and 3 kilograms of food altogether.
But in attempting to import Fruit Roll-Ups to Israel, the American couples were tapping into a real market shortage. Around the country, supermarkets, convenience stores and online retailers have sold out of Fruit Roll-Ups, driving the cost of the snack up. According to Israeli press reports, enterprising merchants are selling individually wrapped Fruit Roll-Ups for more than $5 or $6 each, and each bar weighs in at half an ounce. By comparison, a box of 10 Fruit Roll-Ups in the United States typically costs less than $3.
Meanwhile, Israel’s Health Ministry has tried to push back against the trend, releasing a statement urging Israelis to think about the ingredients of the sweets and the consequences for their health before they jump on the trend.
“Glucose, corn syrup and dry corn syrup are all sugar — a lot of different types of sugar,” the statement read. “Sugar consumption has been found to be associated with weight gain. A variety of related diseases are attributed to sugar consumption such as cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, dental caries and more.”
The ministry added a link to a recipe for a cucumber roll as a healthy alternative.
Will sushi smuggling be the next big trend at Ben Gurion Airport?
Jewish Telegraphic Agency