JERUSALEM (JTA) — Thousands of palm fronds for Sukkot lulavs reportedly have been smuggled out of Egypt despite a ban on their export.
The Egyptian palm fronds have surfaced in Israel and the United States, Haaretz reported, citing veteran palm frond traders.
Israel previously had 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, where they are grown in the Sinai Peninsula.
Meanwhile, due to fears of a lulav shortage for Sukkot, Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture approved the import of the fronds from Gaza, Ynet reported, leading to accusations from left-wing groups that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is for political and not security reasons.
Hamas officials refused to sanction the export. A Hamas official told Ynet that the fronds would not be exported due to an infestation of red palm weevil and not for political reasons.