Egypt bans export of ceremonial palm fronds for Jewish holiday
Jews buy fronds of the date palm, called lulavs, for the holiday of Sukkot.
September 20th, 2011
02:13 PM ET

Egypt bans export of ceremonial palm fronds for Jewish holiday

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) - Egypt has forbidden the picking and exporting of palm fronds used in the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot, leaving Israel scrambling to make up for the shortage.

But one Egyptian customs official said the ban so far has not been implemented.

The fronds of the date palm, called lulavs, are waved during Sukkot, which celebrates the ancient wanderings of the Jewish people after their exile from Egypt. The seven-day holiday begins on the evening of October 12.

"The Agriculture Ministry is working for the complete supply of lulavs for anyone who wants one after it became apparent that picking and exporting them from Sinai is completely forbidden this year," the ministry said.

"As a result of the new circumstances, the Minister of Agriculture, Orit Noked, encourages Israeli palm tree growers to significantly increase the number of lulavs to be given for the Sukkot holiday. At the same time, we will advance alternatives to importing palm trees so that everyone can observe the obligations of Sukkot."

The minister also said the agency would help supply Israelis "with lulavs at a fair price by encouraging domestic date farmers to greatly boost their supply."

The incident comes amid frosty relations between Israel and the new leadership in Egypt.

Egypt has been incensed by the killings of Egyptian police, who died when Israeli commandos went after militants who had launched attacks against Israeli citizens near the Egyptian-Israeli border last month. Also, Israel was upset after Egyptian citizens angry about their country's relations with Israel stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

Egypt banned the export of palm fronds on August 10 "in order to preserve the fortunes of the palm groves" according to Wahman Ahmed, a spokesman for the Egyptian ministry of agriculture.

Ashraf Al Azzazy, the manager of Al Awja customs, told CNN the palm fronds are mainly exported to Israel through the Al Awja commercial border crossing in the town of El Arish in northern Sinai.

"About 600,000 fronds go through our borders each year but so far the ban has not been implemented, " Al Azzazy said. "This season normally three to five tons are exported through the crossing on trucks that go directly to Israel. They need it for their Jewish religious rituals."

Al Azzazy, noting that Israelis also get palm fronds from Jordan through the West Bank, said the Egyptian product is much better and more expensive. Egyptian dealers in Sinai now wrap their products in nylon sheets and pack them in cartons for better quality.

Judge Zakaria Abdel Aziz, former head of the Egyptian Judicial Courts of Appeal, said there has been talk among top Egyptian officials about implementing the ban after the deaths of the Egyptian security personnel, but there has been no court order.

Haaretz, the Israeli daily newspaper, said the ban involves Israel and the Jewish diaspora. It said that Israel previously has imported 700,000 palm fronds yearly.

"In addition, about 700,000 of the 2 million lulavs purchased in Jewish communities in the Diaspora, primarily in North America and Europe, normally come from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. "

The Israeli Agriculture Ministry "will issue special licenses to allow the import of lulavs from Spain, Jordan and the Gaza Strip, so that no major shortage is experienced in the run-up to the holiday. The ministry will require that palm fronds coming into the country be inspected to prevent the spread of plant disease," the newspaper said.

–CNN's Joe Sterling, Izzy Lemberg and Mohamed Fadel Fahmy contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Egypt • Holidays • Israel • Judaism

soundoff (318 Responses)
  1. jerryherb

    HAHA! Finally Egyptians told the jews they can Sukkot!

    September 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • collins61

      The Jews will plant their own and the Egyptian date palm farmers will Sukkot for ever more. Brilliant backfire there Egypt.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      the joos sukkat everything.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Steve Sanders

      I'm sure it's real funny for the Egyptian farmers who barely have a pot to pi$$ in and probably make most of their annual income on those palm fronds.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
  2. Joe M.

    And that's why Egypt is a third-world country. their people are starving, they are rioting int he streets because of a lack of money, and they go and ban the export of a leaf that Israel would pay dearly for and that will now rot on Egypt's desert floor. What a joke!

    September 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • nasa1

      Well said.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
  3. Sal

    Well just let them wave their U.S. greenbacks instead of palm fronds......

    September 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  4. nasa1

    Unfortunately the producers of palm fronds in Egypt will have to take an economic hit. Thank God for freedom of religion in the USA.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  5. its all about you

    So Eygpt wont sell jews 700,000 fronds thats alot of money at 6 bucks each 400 million dollars. At a time that Eygpt is in very bad shape economically.
    Better for jews to buy from israel. I wonder what the Eygption farmers think?

    September 20, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • William Demuth

      They MIGHT be able to get nine bucks or so from the Palestinians.

      Or they could tell the North Koreans they are a new kind of wheat.

      I hear they will eat anything at all,

      September 20, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • SCOTO

      And Egypt get hand outs from the USA.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • Jesus

      China will jump in and sell 'em plastic palm fronds.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
  6. Ard Vraaken

    More religious idiocy. Wave your hand in the air and pretend it's a palm frond. Hell, if religidiots can pretend their entire religion is real, surely they can pretend their hand is a palm frond.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • collins61

      Hilarious and true.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • its all about you


      The Arabs aren't happy!
      They're not happy in Egypt.
      They're not happy in Libya.
      They're not happy in Morocco.
      They're not happy in Iran.
      They're not happy in Iraq.
      They're not happy in Yemen.
      They're not happy in Afghanistan.
      They're not happy in Pakistan.
      They're not happy in Syria.
      They're not happy in Lebanon.
      They're not happy in West Bank.
      And where are they happy?

      They're happy in England.
      They're happy in France.
      They're happy in Italy.
      They're happy in Germany.
      They're happy in Sweden.
      They're happy in the USA.
      They're happy in Norway.
      Some are even happy in ISRAEL.

      It seems that they're happy in every country that is not "Muslim".
      And who do they blame?
      Not Islam.
      Not their leadership.
      Not themselves.
      THEY BLAME THE COUNTRIES THEY ARE HAPPY IN. – Makes no sense to me!

      September 20, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
  7. Lostraven

    I have two DATE palms in my yard and plenty of frounds. COME GET EM!...

    September 20, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Jesus

      Give out your address and you'll be swarmed by anxious Jews. I've often heard of how a Jew will kill for a palm frond. Be careful!

      September 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm |
    • Lostraven

      Jesus..... Actually, I'm already surrounded by them. I live in Florida, and most of the snowbirds who bought houses around us are Jews.....They have plenty too and you know what they do with their's, samething that we do with our's, toss them in a pile at the roadside to be picked up with the trash on Mondays....

      September 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm |
  8. mle

    Idiot, palm for Holiday...? what's a Yikes

    September 20, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
  9. William Demuth

    Free Ipads & Hot air balloon rides. Please someone, I need some friends! <3

    September 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Let me gues?

      About 17? African descent (or maybe just a white boy who likes to PRETEND to be black, with the Hip Hop and the lack of a belt)

      Abusive parents (probably only one?) and a dysfunctional religious upbringing (Baptist?)

      September 20, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Uncouth Swain / Mark is supposedly 20 and in college.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      ???What did I do???

      September 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
  10. William Demuth

    Hey Hiipypoet

    Ya smoked these fronds?

    They never came on the market back in the old days, we just had mescaline and clove cigaarettes for sukkot!

    September 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm |
    • Lebron J.

      Yikes! You just got poo'd on.

      Pass this along by responding to someone elses comment to fling to poo from me to you!!!

      September 20, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  11. Reality


    also Suk·koth (sʊk'əs, sʊ-kōs', sū-kôt')

    n. Judaism

    A harvest festival commemorating the booths in which the Israelites resided during their 40 years in the wilderness, lasting for either 8 or 9 days and beginning on the eve of the 15th of Tishri.

    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/sukkot#ixzz1YWgdkeWp

    Considering the following, the current Israelites should give up the holyday/holiday:

    origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times

    New Torah For Modern Minds

    “Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

    Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

    The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

    The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

    September 20, 2011 at 4:24 pm |
    • Ard Vraaken

      Silly boy, don't you know that you shouldn't confuse religion with either the truth OR facts? They only get in the way of "understanding the mystery" of their delusion – uh – I mean, religion.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • ampatriot54

      @Reality – Now they you've made it clear that your only intent here is to discredit Judaism, what religion are you?

      September 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Reality

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly based on the studies of NT historians and theologians during the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven?????

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
      ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.


      And for a sign for your refrigerator doors:




      Added details upon request.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:28 pm |
  12. William Demuth

    Somehow the pettyness dosen't surprise me.

    I have always heard that the Peace Treaty meant Jews and Egyptians were brothers.

    Then I recalled Cain and Able.

    This will get UGLY in the near future!

    September 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm |
    • Jeff B.

      It was VERY easy for Egypt to adhere to the treaty – the U.S. has been paying Egypt billions every year to do just that.

      September 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  13. William Demuth

    Be back in a little, gotta run to the pharmacy to get my meds, I get a little cranky and psychotic when i forget 🙂

    September 20, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I see another Fruit of my Loin seeks to claim my mantle!

      Sad truth is, as hard as I try, I can't recall his mother.

      I guess some women are better forgotten!

      September 20, 2011 at 4:19 pm |
  14. John Richardson

    I dropped out of highschool for a reason! Just look at the bozos on here.

    September 20, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Ah, the old steal someone else's name game. Pretty lame. Very lame, actually. One wonders what sort of self esteem problems some people have.

      September 20, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      John :fakes leave an electronic trail that cnn can use to locate and deal with them
      .Report the incident .

      September 20, 2011 at 9:11 pm |
  15. Colin

    This is the second ban. The post-Mubarak govenment also banned the harvesting of a rare sea anemone from the Red Sea that was being exported to Israel.

    Hell. With fronds like this, who needs anenomes?

    September 20, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
    • *frank*


      September 20, 2011 at 3:40 pm |
    • Colin

      Yes frank, I feel a strong need to apologize to all people on here for that completely dreadful joke.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm |
    • Flash

      Colin 🙂

      Yes, they dumped the palm leaves into the sea, where bottom fish ate them... and now they have fronds in low plaices.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
    • William Demuth


      Badump bump indeed sir!

      September 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • PeterVN

      Good one, Colin.

      -obligatory groan-


      September 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • Dave

      Buy that man a beer... LOL

      September 20, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
    • Dave

      Nice one, Colin.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Millicent

      This is what comes from wearing a red tie with a blue shirt. Happens every time....

      September 20, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  16. *frank*

    Can't they just use sprigs of basil? Less brash and better smelling, imo.

    September 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Ever smelled hyssop?
      Jewish people seem to like stinky plants for their rituals.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  17. Lulav

    So the poor farmers will have to bear the brunt of this policy? That is sad.

    September 20, 2011 at 2:55 pm |
    • Pippa's Policy

      Negotiate an attractive price for the Lulav and let the poor farmers make some money please...

      September 20, 2011 at 3:15 pm |
  18. Uncouth Swain

    Well..I guess Egypt will just sell them to...umm,....ok, explain to me why it's a good economic idea to NOT sell something to someone? Especially where no one else wants the palm branches except Israel.

    September 20, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Political intrusions into the market seldom make for good policy.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:45 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      Too true but wow....even if the fronds cost a dollar a piece...that could be over $700,000 gone. I am sure there are quite a few Egyptian citizens that could use the cash.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:53 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Just a question, It's okay to sale something to people you consider your enemy? Or maybe it's acceptable to trade your principles for cash?

      September 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Ask your own (former) government.
      US government figures show exports to Iran from 2001 to 2007 totalling $546m, despite economic sactions.
      US exports to Iran include:
      Cigarettes, Commerical aircraft parts, Bras, Perfume, Cosmetics, Musical instruments and parts, Sculptures, Golf carts and/or snowmobiles, Movies and Furs.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      Doc Vestibule, I agree (but that was a strawman), but the question was do you think it is wrong? Personally, I think if you have the moral convictions to stand by your principles it's a good thing. (The US does not have the moral convictions to stand by anything it says or does), the sad part is that I still love my country even when it's wrong, but I can stand up and say that it is wrong.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • John Richardson

      My moral conviction is the more trade you have, the fewer dumb @$$ excuses political leaders can get away with for declaring other people enemies. The free market at its best is one of the few places where people with little else in common can interact peacefully for the general and reciprocal good.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:51 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Doc Vestibule

      Don't forget the condoms lubricated with pork fat.

      I know it was petty, but I couldn't resisit!

      September 20, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • sumday

      at johnquest- doesn't the middle east sell the world oil, and don't they also consider anyone non-Islam or Jewish supporters enemy's? Yet they still sell us oil (and anything else we are willing to buy), so I would say it is hypocrtical of them to not sell things to Israel based on that reasoning when they sell everything to everyone else that they consider enemy's.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • JohnQuest

      sumday, What is this kids day "Bobby does so I can too", It does not answer the fundamental question, is the action of selling to your enemy morally right or morally wrong? Just because Bobby, Billy, and Suzy does it doesn't mean it is right.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      "Just a question, It's okay to sale something to people you consider your enemy?"

      Last time I checked, Israel and Egypt were not enemies. They still have peace treaty between them.

      September 21, 2011 at 2:31 pm |
  19. Pippa

    Is Egypt the only one that grows this Palm fronds?

    September 20, 2011 at 2:30 pm |
    • Pippa

      How about paying a little bit more price for the Lulav's, I am sure if it makes business sense they may want to selll? Microeconomics people!!!!!

      September 20, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
    • Jesus

      Nope, in NYC they have a chain of "Palm Fronds R- Us Stores" . What's a Jew without a palm frond?

      September 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  20. David Johnson

    Doesn't seem like that big of a hardship to me. The Christians are enduring a 2000 year and counting shortage of Messiahs. Now that's a hardship!


    September 20, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Uncouth Swain

      I don't think any Christian counts Messiahs.

      September 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • John Richardson

      @David 😀

      September 20, 2011 at 2:33 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522


      Imagine the poor Jews...they didn't even get one yet! And they were in line first!

      September 20, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I agree. Poor Jews – trying to get through life with only half a bible.

      September 20, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • ThinkForYourself


      It's only about one third of a sacred scripture if you're a mormon.

      September 20, 2011 at 4:28 pm |
    • collins61

      There is more than one?

      September 20, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.