Today, Congressman Howard L. Berman (CA-28), Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent the following letter to the Prime Minister of Egypt, Essam Sharaf, expressing his serious concern over reports that Egypt has made a decision to ban the export of the palm fronds that form the spine of the ritual lulav, necessary for the Sukkot celebration.
The Honorable Essam Sharaf
The Arab Republic of Egypt
c/o Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt
3521 International Court NW
Washington DC, 20008
Dear Prime Minster Sharaf:
I am writing to express my deep concern over reports that Egypt has made a decision to ban the export of palm fronds, also known as lulavs, used in the upcoming Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which this year begins on October 12th of this year. Given that Egypt is one of the world's largest supplier of lulavs, an export ban imposed so close to Sukkot may lead to shortages or extreme price spikes -- causing financial hardship for families and communities simply wishing to fulfill their religious obligations.
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.
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. 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.
I urge your government to reassess in a timely manner the decision to impose an export ban and take all necessary steps to prevent any disruption in the supply of lulavs before Sukkot.
HOWARD L BERMAN