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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. Ann

    Do they have to be real? Maybe it's time to get some fake ones made, like those fake Christmas trees. Then the problem's solved.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  2. carol

    interesting none of this was going on when Murbarak was the President of Egypt, interesting that when the over throw now has occured things are starting to be banned again? hope the U.S. is Happy, there use to be peace over the years with Mubarak but not now.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:15 pm |
  3. George

    I just took a whole pickup load to the dump yesterday. You shoulda said sumpin.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
  4. Leafonthewind

    Arabs and Jews = Oil and Water. There will never be peace in the middle east. This reminds me of the 10 years I lived in New York City and lived in rented apartments. There is a long-standing adversarial posture between landlords and tenants in NYC, and after 10 years I came to the same conclusion as for arabs and jews: they deserve each other.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
  5. Squeezebox

    Why not dry them and save them? Does it have to be a green palm frond?

    September 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • Leafonthewind

      Do they have to be real palm fronds? If Christians can make do with fake Christmas trees, why not use fake fronds?

      September 20, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Michael Klein

      The requirements of the fronds are laid out in Jewish religious law. They must be fresh and green and they must be real date tree fronds.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
    • Fronds are for trees

      Yet I don't see them being all fundamentallist about all those other religious laws. Why don't they start stoning people again if they think they must absolutely follow the letter of one law like that? And where does it talk about these fronds?
      Did God himself tell them the fronds must be real and fresh? These religious retards don't know nuthin about common sense.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
  6. drinky

    Get ready to be invaded Egypt....

    September 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • crusader12

      haha, the west attacks one more oil rich, Suez canal bearing third world country its WWIII, and don't be so sure we are going to be on the right side of it.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
  7. Mr. T

    What idiots. Egypt has done nothing but hurt its own palm frond growers. It's like Jimmy Carter and the Olympics.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
  8. svscnn

    So, essentially, Egypt has decided to take their ball and go home.

    Funny stuff.

    Unless you're a date palm farmer in Sinai.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
  9. dreucalypt

    This does seem like an awfully petty thing to do.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • elizabethlynne

      This article is misleading. After segments of the Egyptian population attacked the Israeli embassy, Israel expressed in the strongest possible terms their hope that differences would be resolved and that there would continue to be peace between Egypt and Israel. Not everyone in Egypt is anti-Israel, but a significant number of people are, as are many anti-Christian. I have a friend from Egypt who lives in an upscale neighborhood, and he said that he hatred spewed from the mosques against Christians and Jews is appalling, and that if it is that bad in his neighborhood, he could just imagine the things said in the more rural and poorer areas where Christians and Jews are made the scapegoats for all problems. Believe me, not all Egyptians are anti-Israel, but a worrisome number are.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • albert

      Let's not kid ourselves into thinking that Jews are anti-christian. They refused Jesus as the messiah which is why the Bible state that they are no longer "Gods Chosen People" When given the choice, they had Jesus killed. They are still waiting for the Messiah. In that respect, Jew are anti-Christian.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Thaddeus

      They murdered Sadat. They do not want peace. They want to die. I don't much feel like arguing with them.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
    • Quotidium

      @albert
      Where in the Bible does it say that?

      September 20, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
  10. Kang

    Why this unimportant matter is such a headline news here in US. Don't we have many problems of our own?
    Who is controlling our media?

    September 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • David

      Because the world doesn't revolve around just you. Just because you are not interested doesn't mean others cannot be or shouldn't be (hmm, but then why did you click on the story and then comment on it?). It's a free country (somewhat). CNN is not just US news, its world news. If you just want U.S. news, then just read U.S. news. Stay in your bubble.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:54 pm |
    • Dave

      "Who is controlling our media" – Disney, Time Warner, GE, Comcast and Newcorp.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
    • sabra

      The question to be asked is not who is controlling only our media but who is controlling our foreign policies, our national interest' and for which county's interest we went to war in Iraq that still is costing us our young men and women"s lives not to mention the lives of innocent Iraqis and the monetary loss to our country.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
  11. Sashland

    Egypt's new Pharaohs say to the peasants: "Let them eat Fronds".

    This is simply an attempt to undermine and insult a Jewish religious celebration. Hatred. Won't work idiots.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
  12. Chris

    As much as I hate religion...this is just proof of Muslim insensitivity.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
    • Jesus

      Nah, the Jews should do what Christians do here with Christmas trees...buy a PLASTIC palm for Sukkot, use it, and store it away for next year. It saves killing off palm trees and there's never a shortage.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
    • American

      This has nothing to do with Muslims...It is called economy...in free market I can sell my goods to anybody I like to or not...If you think not selling goods to another nation is being insensitive than I have news for you...so called EU christian countrys are guilty beyond your imagination for not selling certein things to Muslim countries..so Please stop using religion to attack others

      September 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Hasher Iva

      700,000 palm fronds a year. The Egyptian farmer must be beside himself with frustration that the Egyptian gov't has banned the export. The basic Eqyptian businessman doesn't give a flip about religion, nationality or birthright when it comes to money.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • Steven

      Insensitivity ? And how do you call Israel's refusal to apologize for killing 5 egyptian policemen ? Egypt was fully in its right to retaliate.

      The day Israel stops acting as an arrogant bully, its relations with its neighbours will improve by a mile.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Bozobub

      1) Palms are very fast-growing.
      2) You don't kill the palms when you harvest fronds.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:51 pm |
    • Psyllium

      @Steven: Israel did apologize. The Egyptian gov't deemed that the apology was insufficient. If Israel apologized sufficiently, the Egyptians would find something else to complain about. This is the most petty thing I have ever heard. It is proof that Egypt has complete disdain for Judaism. For goodness sakes it is palm fronds to celebrate the harvest. There is no strategic quality. There is no real economic value. At this point, no matter what the Egyptian government says about Israel–I feel that it is just a bit of spite; no real meaning.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  13. KeninTexas

    That is really babyish of the Egyptians to be so chicken sh!t something as simply as this.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  14. Eric

    Egypt had one export which brought some needed mulah to the locals. Now, that stupid govt. and its brainless people gave up that one too.. Who is the loser here? Doesn't look like the Jewish people. They know how to grow anything out of that barren parched desert for next Sukkot...

    September 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  15. gary

    good .... 1) religions are stupid myths that we need to bet past ... end the fairy tales
    2) let the jews and arabs go at it once and for all, winner take all

    September 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Kirsten

      Already happened multiple times, most recent was war of 1967, when Israel kicked the s*** out of everyone. Hence why there are so many problems today, because the Arabs can't get over the fact that they attacked Israel and not only lost but were pretty much within reach of being annihilated, hence the treaty between Egypt and Israel. Israel would be a heck of alot bigger right now if they had kept fighting.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:45 pm |
    • Minor correction

      I think you mean 1973 – the Yom Kippur War.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
  16. Rick

    hmmmm...sounds like an excellent opportunity for some industrious date farmers in another MidEast country. Oh I bet there are a few Eqyptian businesses and farmers that aren't too happy about losing that income. I wonder what a palm frond goes for these days.

    September 20, 2011 at 5:29 pm |
    • .

      It depends on the date.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
  17. apostate

    7 day holiday!!! W T F

    September 20, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  18. NelsonTinNYC

    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 5:15 pm |
    • The POPE

      what an Idiot you are !

      September 20, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • pherz

      Profoundly true

      September 20, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • The POPE

      Don't you feel stupid when you read your own comment ?

      September 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Dave Davis

      have NEVER heard this delimma voiced in so succinct and eloquent a manner.....

      September 20, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • Radiant

      There is a lot of truth in that, i.e., when they stand on London street corners, where they enjoy more freedom than they ever did in their homeland, and call for England's downfall. Difficult to understand.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • Erik60505

      Like so last years email buddy! Still love ya!

      September 20, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
    • Coco

      Very good way to put it. I don't understand either.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:32 pm |
    • iRex

      Um, the ones who are happy in those countries aren't blaming them.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Nimrod

      Well said. It's a conundrum.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
    • rosestool

      very true!!

      September 20, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • kayjulia

      Nice post and close to the truth too!

      September 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • Kana

      Not all Muslims are arabs. Just the same that not all Arabs, North Africans, Middle Easterners, Persians, Western Asians, etc. are Muslims.
      Maybe you need to brush up on your geography and theology before you broad stroke "everyone" with your narrow minded brush.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • dave

      dont you feel stupid pope, everyone else agrees. maybe your the fool

      September 20, 2011 at 5:55 pm |
    • quacknduck

      Well stated.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
  19. Non-Religious Christ(opher)

    "...we will advance alternatives to importing palm trees so that everyone can observe the obligations of Sukkot."
    Can anyone tell me why someone would be obliged to wave around a palm frond, unless they are somehow delusional? God told me to do it! I swear!

    September 20, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Mike

      Sure, it's a mitzvah d'oraissa. Hope that clears it up.

      September 20, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
  20. BJJSchecter

    Just get some fake ones made in China..

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

      Exactly!

      September 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
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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.