Israel eventually imports palm fronds from Jordan
Photo: Shutterstock

Israel OKs import of lulavim from Gaza

After Egypt bans export of palm fronds ahead of Sukkot, government quickly approves import from Strip. Left-wing groups, foreign officials say potential deal proves Gaza blockade is political rather than security-related

Every year, ahead of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the State of Israel prepares to import lulavim (palm fronds) - one of the Four Species mentioned in the Torah – from Egypt. This year, however, Egypt has banned the export of palm fronds.


One the solutions considered by the government was to import the palm fronds from Gaza, but the Hamas government refused to approve the export at the last minute.


The potential deal was slammed by left-wing groups and foreign officials, who claim this proves the blockade on Gaza is political rather than security-related. Meanwhile, it appears the lulavim will eventually be arriving from Jordan.


The affair began after Egyptian agriculture minister decided to ban the export of palm fronds until the end of 2011. In the past 30 years, Israel has imported from Egypt about 700,000 lulavim a year, but the deal was canceled following the Arab Spring.


The Israeli Ministry of Agriculture began looking for alternatives in a bid to meet the high demand for lulavim ahead of the High Holidays and prevent a price hike.

בדיקת לולבים בשוק ארבעת המינים במאה שערים. ארכיון (צילום: AFP) 

Examining lulavim at Mea Shearim (Archive photo: AFP)


Israel rushed to approve the import of goods from Gaza in order to allow the arrival of lulavim from the Strip ahead of the holiday. The decision surprised groups which have been calling on the government to allow the flow of goods between Gaza and Israel and between the Strip and the West Bank.


'Truth being disclosed'

According to Sari Bashi of the Gisha organization, which campaigns for freedom of movement for Palestinians, "Since 2007 Israel has banned the transfer of goods from Gaza to Israel and the West Bank, which are the destination of 85% of the goods.


"The quick approval of exports demonstrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is not a security-related decision, but a political one. The Defense Ministry must adopt a policy of regular exports, subject to individual security checks, rather than act according to last-minute impulses."


UNRWA spokesperson Chris Guness said the decision proves Israel's double standards.


"When Israel's religious population needs agricultural exports for a religious ceremony, exports from Gaza are approved. But since June 2007, it was a security threat that could not be overcome, and that was the reason that a prohibition was imposed on the export of goods from Gaza. Now, the truth is being disclosed in all of its glory."


Guness added that the ban on exports from Gaza was a form of collective punishment against 1.5 million Palestinians."


'Trees attacked by red palm weevil'

Eventually, however, Israel decided not to import the palm fronds from Gaza due to the Hamas government's refusal to approve the exports. Israeli sources estimated that the decision was politically-motivated and that Hamas decided not to help Israel with its lulav shortage.


Tahsin a-Saka, who is in charge of exports at the Hamas agriculture ministry in Gaza, denied the claims, saying that the decision to ban the exports was strictly professional.


"We have been dealing recently with a plague of red palm weevil which has attacked out palm trees," he told Ynet. "Just like we don't want this plague to develop here, we don't want to export infected goods to you. This has nothing to do with the political dispute between Hamas and Israel."


A review of documents from the Gaza agriculture ministry shows that the Hamas government has allotted some $150,000 to fight the plague, considered one of the most dangerous vermin for palm trees.


Israel eventually decided to import the palm fronds from Jordan. The Agriculture Ministry does not expect a shortage in lulavim this year.


The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories was unavailable for comment.



פרסום ראשון: 10.11.11, 08:01
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