Shopping for lulays last year at the Machane Yehuda market in Jerusalem.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
merican legislators, Israeli
officials and Jewish groups
re working diplomatic
channels in an effort to stave off a
lulav shortage for Sukkot.
Their efforts follow a surprise
move by Egypt, which — after
years as the world's primary sup-
plier of the palm fronds that form
the spine of the ritual lulav —
said it no longer would provide
the leaves to suppliers in the
United States, Israel and beyond.
"We've got everybody on the
case, and I told them to shake a
leg',' said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-
N.Y., pun intended.
Ackerman has raised the issue
in meetings with the Egyptian
ambassador to the United States
and America's ambassador to
Egypt, and also put a call in to
Osama el Baz, an adviser to
October 20 . 2005
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak.
In addition, Sen. Rick
Santorum, R-Pa., has sent a letter
to the Egyptian ambassador urg-
ing Egypt to "consider the needs
of Jewish communities around
the world and allow for a suffi-
cient number of these palm
fronds to be exported this year:'
Staff members from the office
of Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., also
have voiced concerns on the issue
to the Egyptian Embassy.
Metro Detroit won't face a
shortage, said managers of two
local Judaica stores.
"If you had good connections,
you didn't have a problem:' said
Haskel Borenstein, manager of
Borenstein's Books & Music in
Oak Park. "The only question is,
there may be a higher price
because of the shortage."
Chaya Youngworth, manager of
Esther's Judaica & Gift World, in
West Bloomfield, said "We will
have enough, but there's an
increase in price by $8 a lulay."
Israel's Ministry of Agriculture
is in contact with its Egyptian
counterpart, which said that
palm-leaf exports had to be cut
because removing fronds dam-
The pressure seems to be hav-
ing some effect. Egypt was the
source in past years of about 1
million lulays worldwide .
The Egyptian action could cre-
ate a shortage and dramatically
increase prices. Egypt's concerns
are backed up by horticultural-
ists, who say removing the fronds
could damage a tree's ability to
produce fruit and thrive.
"It is detrimental to the health
of the palm to remove the green,
productive leaves:' said John
Begeman, a horticulture agent
with the University of Arizona's
College of Agriculture and Life
Sciences, in Tucson. "They are
doing the work of the palm in
manufacturing food" through
With Sukkot here, Jewish
world shaken by cut in
exports from Egypt.
Date palms typically have 15-
20 healthy green leaves at any one
time, and removal of leaves
should be limited to the dead and
dying brown leaves at the trees'
base, Begeman said. The
Encyclopedia Judaica translates
the Hebrew word lulav as "a
young branch of a tree" or "a
The lulav is one of the arba'ah
minim, or four plant species, that
are joined together and shaken on
Sukkot. The others are willows
and myrtle, which are bound to
the lulav with strips of palm; and
the etrog, or citron, which is held
beside the lulav as it is waved.
Those in contact with the
Egyptians say they have been
receptive to Jewish concerns. No
one interviewed believed that the
Egyptian move was politically
motivated. They said they hoped
the Egyptians might take steps to
cushion the blow in light of the
While Egypt long has been the
major producer of lulays — the
majority come from the El Arish
region of northern Sinai — some
distributors have gotten portions
of their supplies from California,
Arizona and Israel. In light of the
news out of Egypt, several Israeli
distributors reportedly visited
Jordan recently to determine if
the Hashemite Kingdom could
become a new source.
Palm fronds also play a role in
Christianity. On Palm Sunday,
before Easter, many Christians
use bunches of green palm leaves
— pruned from date, Sago and
other palm varieties — as they
mark Jesus' entry into Jerusalem
in the days prior to his crucifix-
ion. In many churches, the fronds
later are burned and their ash
used on Ash Wednesday. ❑
Staff writer Harry Kirsbaum con-
tributed to this report.