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. Schmoogalicious

    I'd say Israel is now getting a taste of its own medicine.

    September 21, 2011 at 2:25 am |
  2. RKNA

    Egypt has evidently adopted some of Erdogan's silly habits by banning the export of ceremonial palm fronds. When Egypt wakes up from their dreams, they will realize how ludicrous they appear before the whole world.

    September 21, 2011 at 1:37 am |
  3. venu

    Egypt: Iran in making..

    September 21, 2011 at 1:07 am |
  4. BigRed

    Well, that looks like something to go to war over!

    September 21, 2011 at 12:53 am |
  5. Whatwhat4

    It's one of our more silly traditions. Waving plants. I saw the headline and thought no more palm fronds was a metaphor.

    September 21, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  6. Irene

    It can't be serious.
    It must be a joke.

    Why Egyptians got religions tension?
    What the connection between religions and politics?

    September 21, 2011 at 12:18 am |
  7. ilan

    palms nazi
    No palms for you !
    come back 1 YEAR !

    September 21, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  8. Cythara

    Now's a good time for Jews to just shrug their shoulders and go on with life. Moses and the Exodus was a fiction anyway. It no more happened than the Easter bunny hop, hop hops down the bunny trail.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
    • Joe Hadenuff

      Can't wait to see the video of you standing in front of a mosque and shouting the koran is bunch of made up crap. (IOW, you're just another cowardly secularist, jihadi-appeasor.

      September 21, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  9. Simon Cohen

    It can't be serious.
    It must be a joke.
    Is that the embargo Egyptians got?

    September 20, 2011 at 11:47 pm |
    • power4things

      they tried exporting locusts, frogs and triangular buildings but no takers. Palms'll work ...

      September 21, 2011 at 3:07 am |
  10. Dean

    Seems Egypt is running amuck. As Israel adjusts to the transformation of a new government in Egypt, the Egyptians are showing they are just a bunch of thugs that aren't interested in advancing their country. Egypt will surely falter if the west isn't there to hand them money and technology that they are incapable of producing on their own.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • MechaX

      Advancing their country by selling palm fronds? you must be kidding.There's one million and one ways to advanced your contry by trade or political... and certainly no harm if they don't want to sell.This new goverment is no thug.U have never been there.. so shut up your mouth and don't analyse things if you are not there 1st hand. lives are more precious than those palm fronds

      September 21, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  11. Tiger73

    As an American of the Jewish faith, and one who belongs to a Reform (Liberal) Congregation, I feel that the decision to prevent the sale of Lulavs is an anti-Semitic act. It is intended to prevent Jews from practicing their religion. I know that it may seem odd to some people, but it is part of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The decision by the Egyptian government is against ALL Jews.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
    • Simon Cohen

      It is totally stupid but it is not anti-semitic. And since when Jews rely on Egyptians supply? That is stupid too.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • Cythara

      Everything is antisemitic to Jews. You guys have tried to elevate it through continual propaganda, to a higher 'sin' than blasphemy. The truth is antisemitic, so I would say either start embracing reality or get used to antisemitism.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
    • MechaX

      Good tiger.. everything is anti semitic act... theres the most excuse i have heard from anywhere but only the jews. I guess if we are against them in anything.. we being label anti semitic.. how ridiculous...

      September 21, 2011 at 12:56 am |
    • EFJ

      As an Egyptian of a Christian faith I think it is sad to hear that the “(Liberal) Congregation” that you claim that you belong to consider Egypt anti-Semitic for not selling their OWN palm fronds. I wonder what would the more fanatic congregation think whatever that is.

      September 21, 2011 at 7:30 am |
  12. Mathilda

    Is this a news? The Jews should trust in their Messiah Jesus to be saved. All the Jewish holidays signify either the nature or the works of Yeshua of Nazareth.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
    • ilan

      im from nazareth illit and the only yeshua we have is one crazy guy that hangs around in the mall and talks to himself.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:43 pm |
    • Mathilda

      Ilan, don't lie. The Jews are smarter than you. You don't write like a Jew.

      September 20, 2011 at 11:55 pm |
    • Whatwhat4

      נקרעתי מצחוק אילן. גם אתה מכיר את יהושוע? How exactly are we supposed to write Mathilda?

      September 21, 2011 at 12:44 am |
    • Mathilda

      @What-, don't Jews know capitalization in English? Your Hebrew sentence is stupid in content. We all have a translator, What-.

      September 21, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  13. Simon Cohen

    It looks like Egypt may have to look for new markets for palm branches. It is going to be rough without converting some masses, from Asia for example, to Judaism. On the other hand, that may result in some unintended consequences.

    September 20, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
  14. 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 11:29 pm |
    • jAYSON rEX


      September 21, 2011 at 1:00 am |
    • .........

      copy paste spam alert hit report abuse to all reality posts

      September 21, 2011 at 4:56 am |
  15. OldCactus

    Nothing but a bunch of children posting here. Im gone.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  16. alain morel

    It is not a very intelligent initiative.The number of tourists is already declining adding that foolish export cut ,.What else very soon?I will suggest Egypt to destroy the pyramids so that jewish tourists from any nation can no more enjoy touring them.ABSOLUTELY STUPUD.They are getting nuts.

    September 20, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • BG


      September 20, 2011 at 10:56 pm |
  17. Santa

    HO HO HO am santa claus i will send u all the plants u need in christmash ho ho ho am too bussy in planet juno so i cant help u with ur holiday stories ho ho ho

    September 20, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Cocopuf

      Your remark reflects your lack of Spiritual intelligence ... but then, what can you expect from ... ? 🙂

      September 20, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  18. Sid

    herbert juarez is a spineless coward.

    September 20, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  19. herbert juarez

    Don't bogart that frond, my friend ,pass it over to me...God bless

    September 20, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  20. jg

    Summary of article: Crazy religious people want to kill plants and wave the sticks around in some sort of insane celebration of magical super-beings in the sky.
    Meanwhile...some completely different, crazy religious people don't want to share the plants that are gonna get killed and waved around.
    Wow...this is a REALLY important issue.....,if you happen to be completely insane and believe in magical super-beings in the sky.

    September 20, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • JLS

      Comments like that seem to indicate a total lack of knowledge and respect of the Jewish faith. Every day I am convinced even more that we are living in a spiritually bankrupt world.

      September 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • snow

      No JLS.. we live in a world that is finally seeing the absurdity of following a 3000 year old tradition.. I mean, tell me one good reason why this celebration makes sense?

      September 20, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Sean

      Genius, nobody uses the palm fronds to 'wave the sticks around'. If you're a good Christian, maybe you should learn the customs of Jesus and his 12 Disciples. Since they were all Jews and Jesus was a Rabbi. The palm fronds are used to make little huts!

      September 20, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • Santa

      HO HO HO am santa claus i will send u all the plants u need in christmash ho ho ho am too bussy in planet juno so i cant help u with ur holiday stories ho ho ho

      September 20, 2011 at 9:45 pm |
    • Mo

      while you're right that snow is incredibly rude and would likely be just as defensive as anyone if someone belittled something that's important to him. That said he's not technically wrong about the use of the Lulavs – we DO wave it about and while some are used to cover the succot (the huts as you termed them) if there are any left over (unlikely this year) their main purpose ARE to be waved about in a specific series of ritual ceremonies. The fact that people like snow see this as illogical is irrelevant. To me I find it weird that people who would find the concept of cannibalism abhorent drink wine and eat wafers and get excited over the idea of eating jesus and drinking his blood. But let each leave the other to their own beliefs just as long as its not hurting anyone else.

      what Egypt's doing here though is simply childish. They have great business from selling the lulavs which they have no other use for and they're not selling them simply out of spite. all the big talk among muslims about how "we don't have a problem with Jews its just Israel we hate" is once again shown up as nonsense. hating Israel is just the PC way to be fashionably anti-semitic.

      September 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm |
    • Cocopuf

      Obviously, your ignoramus state is leading you in the wrong direction. You know ... like fools usually write or say? 🙂

      September 20, 2011 at 10:49 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.