WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, a leading congressional Democrat, wrote the Egyptian prime minister urging him to export lulavs in time for Sukkot.
"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," Berman (D-Calif.), the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a Sept. 21 letter to Essam Sharaf.
Egypt last week banned the export of palm fronds to Israel and Jewish communities abroad, leading to fears of a lulav shortage for the Sukkot holiday.
Israel had previously imported about 700,000 palm fronds a year in the run-up to Sukkot, which is about 40 percent of the annual demand, Haaretz reported. Another 700,000 of the 2 million lulavs used in Diaspora Jewish communities also come from Egypt.
"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," Berman said. "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."
The Orthodox Union, an umbrella group for Orthodox congregations, applauded Berman’s letter.