Eretz Yisrael Time

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Now you may not realize it, but this is far from an academic question.

When you are the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority it is important you get in as much cash as possible on each trip – sort of like in the old days when the question was how much computer equipment could you smuggle in past Israeli customs.

The answer to the cash question though is actually academic or at least scholastic.

Let’s say Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar flew in on El Al (economy class - the PA is cash strapped you know).

Now we all know that El Al has new regulations requiring each suitcase to weigh no more than a maximum 50 pounds. We can assume that al-Zahar isn’t a cheapskate when it comes to someone else’s money, so he’ll probably decide to pay the overweight fine and bring in a suitcase weighing 70 pounds.

Assuming the check-in lady wasn’t having a good day, and he couldn’t charm her, al-Zahar would have been fined an overweight charge of $100 – so don’t forget to deduct that at the end of the calculations.

On to the calculations:

A stack of twenty individual dollar bills weigh .7 ounces.

That means that there are 457 bills in 16 ounces (I’m rounding down for the rubber band). A full 70 pounds would then be 31,990 bills.

Assuming al-Zahar's counterfeit money is in all hundreds – that means that Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar smuggled in $3,199,000 in his suitcase.

But wait. Is there enough room in his suitcase for 31,990 bills (and his underwear)?

Let’s see.

A dollar is around 2.5 by 6 inches and 100 stacked bills are about .5 inches high.

El Al allows you a suitcase whose maximum size is 62 inches (well that is what it used to be, I don’t remember the new smaller size, so Zahar might also get hit with an oversize fee too, but we'll ignore that for the moment). What this means is that the width + height + depth of the suitcase must be equal to or less than 62 inches.

Let’s get him a suitcase that is 30” x 24” x 8” – exactly 62”.

This means that al-Zahar could actually fit 76,800 counterfeit bills in his suitcase and assuming they are all hundreds, meaning $7,680,000 dollars. But he has a small problem as it would weigh 168 pounds, and that would require 3 suitcases at least.

As the article said, al-Zahar smuggled in a single suitcase stuffed with cash, so now we can be sure that he did not bring in more than $3,199,000.

Whoops. No more than $3,198,900 – almost forgot his overweight fine.

Ha’aretz reports that al-Zahar had $20,000,000 in 12 suitcases. So either he didn’t maximize his suitcase's weight potential or he took an airline with smaller weight allowances per suitcase (perhaps he flew in from Europe).

Assuming just 1 suitcase was full of clothing, and the others weren’t full of LCD TVs, so the cash poor Gazans could watch the Mondial on the beach, that means each suitcase weighed just under 40 pounds.


Jerusalemcop said...

you are a math genius Joe.

You also have waaay too much time on your hands. Does your employer know what you do while at work?


Rafi G. said...

elal lowered their weight limit to 50 pounds instead of 70..

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Joe: GREAT post!

JoeSettler said...

I was worried the math might be too complicated.

Actually now I'm curious. Everytime you see an attache case ("Tik James Bond" in Hebrew) full of money in the movies, I wonder what the maximum it can fit is.

Anyone want to work it out?

Anonymous said...

that is the funniest post I read in the jblogosphere this month for sure. keep up the good work.

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