A 30-year-old U.S. dentist who lives in Singapore has devoted the last three years of his life to globetrotting, in the hope of becoming the youngest American to visit every country in the world while maintaining a full-time job. But his ambitions have been thwarted by an unlikely foe: Israel's immigration authorities.
Dustin Pfundheller has visited some 200 countries and garnered lots of coverage in the U.S. media. Last October, he arrived in Israel – one of the few countries that was yet to stamp his passport. He was stopped at Ben-Gurion International Airport and, after questioning, was refused entry. According to his lawyer, Michael Decker, Pfundheller wasn't given a reason in writing but assumed he was refused entry because he had visited numerous countries – including Iran and Arab states – that have no diplomatic relations with Israel.
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A month ago, Pfundheller decided to try his luck again, this time at the eastern border crossing with Jordan. He registered to attend a dental conference in Tel Aviv, bought a round-trip ticket, and made plans to meet up with Israeli friends – all in the hope of persuading the border control authorities that his visit was innocent. Once again, however, he was refused entry.
According to Decker, the border guards reacted angrily at his latest attempt to enter the country and claimed that he would barred from Israel for 10 years.
Decker has recently contacted the Interior Ministry to demand a copy of the notes from Pfundheller’s questioning, as well as the official reason why he was being refused entry to Israel (in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law).
“All our client wants is to visit Israel as a tourist, to complete the mission to which he’s devoted his life and for which he’s been working the past three years,” said Decker.
Decker added that, throughout his travels, Pfundheller has volunteered to help promote health among the poor, and has acted as a physician’s assistant in many places. Given that Pfundheller poses no risk and his intentions are innocent, Decker argues that the Interior Ministry’s decision “is unreasonable, disproportionate and contrary to the global ethics of tourism.”
As of yet, neither the Border Police nor the Interior Ministry have responded to his letter.