American Jews gearing up for Wednesday night's Sukkot holiday could face a lulav price hike, due to an Egyptian ban on the sale of date tree branches to Israel. This particular type of palm frond, or lulav, is one of four species of flora that Jews ritualize in their observance of the harvest festival.
Responsive to an earlier date palm shortage, Egypt threatened a similar embargo six years ago but, succumbing to Israeli pressure, ultimately exported more branches. Although lulav leaves are indigenous to other parts of the world, including Spain, Morocco and the U.S., the fronds are most commonly cultivated in this tumultuous region, and Jews worldwide have become seasonally dependant on the Egyptian crop.
To compensate for the lulav shortage, Israeli officials reportedly lifted a ban on agricultural exports from the Gaza Strip, availing 100,000 additional branches on a "one-time basis." The decision, though temporary, was met with resistance.
Egypt's ban sparked even greater controversy since President Hosni Mubarak stepped down earlier this year. Egyptian-Israeli relations have been in question ever since, with violence and vandalism escalating last month. "My customers understand that we should not be buying anything from Egypt," one American supplier said. "They saw the attacks on the Israeli Embassy and ask, 'Why are we doing business with these people?'"
The Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture allegedly protects the Arab nation's palm population and disadvantages its farmers with this embargo. However, considering recent tensions between the Middle East neighbors, Israel appears to be the intended injured party. A writer in the LA Times says, "Only hatred and spite could move a government to act so irrationally and counterproductively."
Regional instability compels skepticism and suspicion over seemingly insignificant matters, even a small increase in the cost of lulavs. In the wake of Arab Spring protests, bans are enforced or ignored and governmental uncertainty is rampant. With Egypt expected to resolve its outstanding democratic issues in the coming months, American and Israeli Jews can only hope the Arab nation will emerge as a trusted ally and business partner.
In the meantime, we will just have to take the hit and shell out more shekels than in previous years.
This article originally appeared on TribeVibe.
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