Egypt has unexpectedly banned the export of closed palm fronds, just in time for Israel’s annual Sukkot festival, in which the fronds are a traditional feature.
The Egyptian decision to ban the export has forced Israel to seek ways to make up the shortfall — shipping fronds from as far away as Spain.
“In the past, Israeli dealers imported between 600,000 and 700,000 fronds, the vast majority of which came from Egypt’s Sinai region,” reports Menahem Kahana for the French news agency AFP. “The closed fronds of the date palm are used by Jews during the Feast of Tabernacles — which begins on October 12 and lasts for seven days.”
Following the Egyptian ban, Israel’s agriculture ministry “is encouraging local palm farmers to significantly increase the amount of fronds they will supply for the holiday,” according to a statement from Israeli Agriculture Minister Orit Noked.
“Relations between Egypt and Israel, which have been bound by a peace treaty since 1979, entered a period of turbulence after the ouster of former president Hosni Mubarak by a popular uprising in February,” noted Kahana:
The Israeli embassy in Cairo was ransacked last weekend, forcing the evacuation of staff and the departure of the ambassador. Egypt’s envoy to Israel was summoned to the Israeli foreign ministry after Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf was quoted by official news agency MENA as saying that the peace treaty between the two states was “not sacred.”
The Egyptian agriculture ministry gave no reason for its worldwide ban on frond exports, Israeli officials said.
They said it was not yet known whether Israeli farmers, who normally provide 200,000 fronds for the holiday, would be able to sufficiently boost production.