Don't ship an iPad to Israel

How I shipped an iPad into Israel before the Communications Ministry began confiscating them.

I originally ordered four iPads, one for myself a three for Chris, Tom and Shaul from the PowerPage.

After receiving the iPads on Saturday, April 3 -- and before unboxing mine -- I dutifully re-packed three and took them to the post office to make the 1pm Saturday closing time. The stateside iPads arrived safely in Virginia and California on Monday, but the one for Shaul took a different path. You see, Shaul lives in Jerusalem.

I mailed his iPad via Express Mail International and put "eBook reader" on the customs form. On April 8 (5 days later) I received notice that the iPad had arrived in Israel, but that it was being delayed at the import VAT. They required a proof of purchase to release it, which I promptly sent along.

On April 12 (9 days later) Shaul emailed me that Israeli customs wanted to levy a fine on the iPad because it was an "eBook:"

In the beginning they said I have to pay VAT and 'customs' or how ever you call it, some special fine you pay for certain products, which for some reason is very high for eBooks - it turned out 250$! But when I told them it's an iPad and not a regular eBook they canceled the fine completely and I only had to pay the regular 16% VAT (around US$80) Go figure...

I had a moment of complete and utter panic yesterday when I read Daring Fireball's Don’t Take Your iPad to Israel which revealed that the Israeli Communications Ministry had not only blocked the import of iPads but that it had started confiscating them. Chills. Did I just waste $500 on an iPad only to have it pinched by an Israeli customs official?

According to Haaretz.com Israeli Engineers haven't tested the device's suitability and compliance with Israeli wireless networks.

"The iPad device sold exclusively today in the United States operates at broadcast power levels [over its WiFi modem] compatible with American standards," explained the officials. "As the Israeli regulations in the area of WiFi are similar to European standards, which are different from American standards, which permit broadcasting at lower power, therefore the broadcast levels of the device prevent approving its use in Israel," said the officials.

To make matters worse the head of customs at Ben-Gurion International Airport said yesterday they have confiscated 10 iPads, including those their owners declared and on which they offered to pay the 16% VAT required by law.

Finally today, 12 days later, I received an exasperated email from Shaul that his iPad had safely arrived:

You sent it just on time! One day more and it would be confiscated!

Wow. Just wow.

Since he's in Jerusalem, he can't install apps on the iPad yet (and it looks like he's going to have to wait even longer) but he's optimistic that Israel will be included in the first wave of countries outside the U.S. to get the iPad. I know of at least one really happy (and lucky) iPad user in Israel. For now, at least.