Last Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the Ranking Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf that urged him to lift export limitations on lulavs in time for the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot. The recent Egyptian decision to ban the export of Lulavs—a closed frond of the date palm tree and one of the “arba’ah minim” (four species) necessary for the Sukkot celebration—is causing serious concerns among Jews around the world who fear they will be unable to secure a lulav in time for Sukkot.
Citing such concerns, Rep. Berman’s letter to Prime Minister Sharaf reads as follows:
Dear Prime Minster Sharaf:
I am writing to express my deep concern over reports that Egypt has made a decision to ban the export of palm fronds, also known as lulavs, used in the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which this year begins on October 12th of this year. Given that Egypt is one of the world’s largest supplier of lulavs, an export ban imposed so close to Sukkot may lead to shortages or extreme price spikes - causing financial hardship for families and communities simply wishing to fulfill their religious obligations.
I understand that Egypt has previously limited the export of lulavs to prevent overharvesting, and I appreciate the fact that Egypt has a sovereign right to manage its agricultural resources, but such prior export limitations were announced well in advance of Sukkot - giving Jewish communities ample notice to secure alternative supplies of lulavs before the holiday.
In light of the recent tensions between Egypt and Israel, there is a widespread perception that the reported ban on lulav exports was imposed for purely political reasons. I sincerely hope this is not the case, for such a restriction could deprive a very large number of Jewish people around the world - including many of my constituents in Los Angeles—of lulavs used in religious services.
I urge your government to reassess in a timely manner the decision to impose an export ban and take all necessary steps to prevent any disruption in the supply of lulavs before Sukkot.
HOWARD L BERMAN
To read Berman’s press release regarding the letter, please click here.
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