Egypt has banned the export of a key item needed for Jewish holiday observance, and Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) is not happy about it.
"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," Berman wrote in a letter to Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf today. "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."
Egypt has banned lulav exports before, to prevent overharvesting, but those bans were announced well in advance and allowed Jews to find alternative lulav sources, Berman said. Also, in the aftermath of the attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo, a lulav crisis is the last thing needed in Jewish-Egyptian relations.
"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," wrote Berman. "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."
The Egyptian embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the lulav situation.
John Hudson reports on national security and foreign policy from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom, the White House to Embassy Row, for The Cable.