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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Egypt, Hamas, and maybe Jordan causing lulav problems

A few weeks ago, Egypt confirmed a story I had in August that the country would refuse to export palm fronds - lulavim - that religious Jews use in the upcoming Sukkot holiday.

UPI reports that Egyptians were smuggling lulavim to Israel in defiance of the ban, although it is not clear how exactly this was being accomplished.

According to some sources, after the Egyptian ban, Israel then tried to get the lulavim from Gaza:

Israeli officials will temporarily lift a ban on agricultural exports from the Gaza Strip to allow the entry of palm fronds used to mark a Jewish holiday, a newspaper report said Wednesday.

Maariv, a Hebrew-language Israeli daily, said the defense ministry agreed to alllow 100,000 lulavs to enter Israel from Gaza on a "one-time basis" ahead of Sukkot, which starts next week.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak authorized importing the lulavs from Gaza to avert a "crisis" caused by Egypt's refusal this year to approve the sale of the fronds, Maariv reported.

This gave UNRWA's spokesperson another opportunity to slam Israel:

"What a revealing double standard," said UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.

"When Israel's theocratic echelons need agricultural produce for a Jewish religious celebration, imports from Gaza are authorized, yet since June 2007 this has apparently been an insurmountable security threat.

"Now the truth is laid bare," Gunness told Ma'an.
Gunness did not mention that Israel restricts exports from Gaza not only for security reasons but also to retain some leverage over Hamas. Security is not only stopping the smuggling of weapons.

Anyway, this move that would have injected much needed cash into Gaza's economy was stopped - by Hamas.
Israeli traders will buy between 70,000 and 100,000 lulavs – palm tree fronds that are one of the Four Species of Sukkot – from Jordan. Another initiative – to buy 50,000 lulavs from Gaza traders who smuggled them into Gaza from Sinai – was vetoed by the Hamas terror group that rules over Gaza.
I wonder if Gunness will issue a statement on how Hamas is subjecting Gazans to collective punishment.

As far as the Jordanian lulavim are concerned, things aren't going so smoothly either. Religious website bhol.co.il reports that 85,000 lulavim are being held up at the Jordanian border for unspecified reasons.

Israel supplies some 650,000 lulavim from local sources.

The Sukkot holiday starts on Wednesday night.