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. Chuckie

    Let's start by refusing to ship Viagra to Egypt. That should expose their short-comings. If the middle-east didn't have oil it would be a poor cousin to Africa.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • herbert juarez

      Hey chuckie, check out a world map ,Guess where you will find Egypt?

      September 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
  2. Newo

    "you can't have any of our palm fronds, so there"
    more evidence that world leaders are essentially temper-tantrum prone 6 year olds.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
  3. swindler

    Abe Last time the world checked the Israelis are still stealing Palestinian land. What jews can't buy-they steal–including elections and politicians.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  4. Serenade

    I'm curious what the Egyptians are going to be eating this year. Thanks to their revolution they've lost billions in tourism and now they end the exportation of a cash crop.

    Kudos Egypt.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  5. L.A. Woman

    The number of anti-Semites and morons writing is astounding. Albert, stick your head back under the rock. Not everyone has to be Christian. Sukkot is a lovely holiday, and plastic fronds would make a mockery of it. Let the goyim give up their Peeps on Easter, and we will give up real fronds.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:17 pm |
    • T3chsupport

      Why is it that whenever someone disagrees with what Israel does, they're an anti-Semite?
      Stop acting like such a victim all the time. People aren't going to stop hating that just because you want them to.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Serenade

      Serious? This post makes you and by association Jews look like elitist. Please just go away and keep your mouth shut!

      September 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
  6. Gene Brady

    This is not news. This is more Israeli whinning. They never stop. They are insatiable.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
    • MIchael

      Where in the article does it say Israel is complaining? If anyone is acting like a child it is Egypt in banning the sale of them.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  7. T3chsupport

    What?!? No leaves to celebrate their ancestors getting lost in the desert that one time? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

    September 20, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Dill Weed

      Palm fronds! Get your palm fronds!

      September 20, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
    • Old-Timer

      Bunches of kooks!
      Get 'em while they're hot!
      Bunches of kooks!

      September 20, 2011 at 7:26 pm |
    • Cuppa Joe

      They should use tea leaves and make tea instead of waving garbage in the air.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  8. leecherius

    Just send them artificial fronds...use 'em again and again...hey a business opportunity..go for it.

    September 20, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • Don

      Like artificial Christmas trees. There is nothing wrong in it and its eco friendly. Less trees will be chopped and less trash to clean up.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
    • jeff gerhard

      Yea right! Very good idea. Screw Egypt. The leader of Isreal should make a statement, "Let them keep their palm frons" !

      September 20, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
  9. Seriously

    It is so sad to see all you haters but one day we all will die and face our maker. I wonder if you will try to insult God or make a joke then. A time will come when you will realize you were the lost one and needed a Savior all along. You will then say "why did I not believe."
    Remember God gives us all choices, some people make bad choices that affect us and some people make good choices. No one can tell you what to do or what to believe. Search with your own heart!

    September 20, 2011 at 7:05 pm |
    • Old-Timer

      Seriously, you lie like a dog and have no clue about your own religion.
      This is why everyone's leaving religion. It's filled with tards like you.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • AtheistSteve

      Well you are right about one thing...some day we will all die. The rest is just make believe. How sad that you put so much of your one and only existence into pipe dreams of happy ever after fantasy. But keep on tossing out the threats you think we should be worried about(we're not by the way) for not thinking the way you do. I would say it's such a shame that when you do die you wont be aware of the fact that you don't possess a soul, that there isn't a god or heaven and my "told you so" will never be heard.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  10. jo

    Now we say....to Israel...no more $$$$$$$ for weapons to beat up Palestine!!! NO MORE!!!

    September 20, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
    • Lee

      This is stupid Israel is just plain stupid.... Grow up

      September 20, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • Scott Alford

      Palestine is like a rabid dog that must be chained or put down or else they will kill all of us that do not follow Islam. I'm all for religious freedom but I draw the line when a religion condones the killing of innocent people.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • Cuppa Joe

      Scott, EVERY major religion condones the killing of innocent people. It's all right there in their holy books.
      Try reading one sometime.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  11. jellylee2020

    Holiday traditions do most damages to environments. Every Christmas thousands and millions of firs and pines get chopped down. Every Eastern people buy rabbits to be in the holiday spirits and then let them run loose after the holidays. Same goes for pumpkins, turkeys...etc. I say we should just do with symbol gestures instead of destroying the environment in the name of celebrations.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
    • leecherius

      Save the Great Pumpkin...rofl..

      September 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm |
    • Dill Weed

      Stop the turkey slaughter! Gobble, gobble!

      September 20, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  12. RattleTrap

    Here is a perfect example of what happens when religions are in conflict. Egyptians need jobs and income. But it is more important to make a statement with little real value and kiss a few million dollars in palm frond sales goodbye. Why are we providing foreign aid to a country like this that feels they can afford to kiss this money goodbye? Maybe we should deduct that amount from their foreign aid package and use it to provide jobs here at home.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • hussein

      if you take a vote by the majority of egyptian, they want to ban American aid too lol

      September 20, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
    • Old-Timer

      When they now have access to all those previously-frozen assets, you can expect more of their true feelings to become known now that they no longer need to hide their hate in order to get money.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:16 pm |
  13. AGrey

    No palms for you!

    Seriously though, I'm surprised the Israelis don't grow their own.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Steve-o

      Most likely they don't grow their own to use cheap labor. The average income in Israel is 5 times that in Egypt. The same reason why Americans don't manufacture our own clothing or refrigerators or pretty much anything anymore, when there are people willing to do it for next to nothing.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • Cuppa Joe

      They don't have the land or the labor or the water resources. I think their god is telling them to stop using real palm fronds.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
  14. Real American

    This is just another example of how bad the Arab Spring is going to be! Why are we trying to put these despots on trial too? Mubarek should have been allowed to step down and go into exile. His being put on trial sends a message to every other dictator, which is that you should build the bunker, hire the mercenaries and fight to the bitter end.

    Well, glad I visited Egypt in 2009 because I doubt it will be open to tourists again in my lifetime.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
    • Dave

      If they hadn't given Egypt the Sinai back, they probably would.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
    • jellylee2020

      You mistook the meaning of term "Arab Spring". The spring in Arab Spring is not in reference to the season Spring. It actually references the spring that's stuck out of your old mattress and into your butt type of spring.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:59 pm |
  15. Dan W.

    So what are they going to use the palm fronds for? It's pointless to waste an item that has no value to you, but has plenty of value to your neighbor, especially right after your nation has had a revolution and likely needs to work hard to get it's economy back on it's feet. Just saying–

    September 20, 2011 at 6:31 pm |
  16. Maxine

    Well maybe they can wander on out and find their own. Oh, I forgot, they can't do anything for themselves because they have to spend all their time banging thier heads against the wall. SurelyUjest is absolutely right.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Abe

      Maxine. Israel gives more than it receives. It's at the forefront of medical and technological advancement. But then again that won't suit your baseless hatred and the need to vent your spleen.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
    • Cuppa Joe

      "Israel gives more than it receives"?

      Whaaaat? What the hell have you been snorting? Fertilizer?

      September 20, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
  17. stevie68a

    Symbolism is always more important than reality to these people. I'm sure China will happily manufacture millions of artificial
    palm fronds, that can be used again and again. Israel can say "nyah, nyah" to Egypt, and all of these childlike people can shut

    September 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
  18. Geezer

    hahaha....screw Israel. We should stop supporting them in the first place.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:25 pm |
    • Dan W.

      Then we should have accepted them into the US instead of putting them in the middle of all their most hated enemies. The US and Britain created the state, we also have an obligation to protect it.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:33 pm |
  19. Susan

    Egypt is going the way of all of the other 3rd world arab countries. They were actually better off under the iron fist of Mubarek. Now they will be ruled by a bunch of religious nutbags, and go the way of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Islamic freaks will fill the void left by Mubareks departure. Back to the stone age for them.

    September 20, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Surly_I_Jest

      I'm old enough to remember the Iranian revolution. And old enough to worry about the Arab Spring. Sometimes I wish I was still a naive young liberal.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:12 pm |
  20. SurelyUjest

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ....I think this is hilarious!! Silly old palm Sunday, X-mas, other Religious holidays that require the stripping or destruction of a tree or bush or fruit....what ever. Hey israel....may be you can pay Palestinians to go steal some for you, I hear they need work in Gaza!!

    September 20, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • hammertim12

      I am sometimes amazed at how many southerners and tea partiers comment on these articles

      September 20, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • Dan W.

      Are you sure the palm fronds are not trimmings? Palm trees are generally trimmed to keep a 'clean' appearance.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • Abe

      one shouldn't encourage palestinians to steal. first of all that isn't the way how Israel behaves and the pali's are bad enough already.

      September 20, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
    • Surly_I_Jest

      They're welcome to some of my palm fronds. I trim them often and they just go in the compost bin. Not sure about the shipping cost. California is a long way from Israel.

      September 20, 2011 at 7:10 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.