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September 22, 2013 11:05 am

Gaza Exports Truckload of Lulav Palm Fronds to Israel for Sukkot

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Screenshot from an Al Jazeera report from October, 2011, about a Hamas decision to ban palm frond exports from Gaza to Israel. Photo: Screenshot / Elder of Ziyon.

Screenshot from an Al Jazeera report from October, 2011, about a Hamas decision to ban palm frond exports from Gaza to Israel. Photo: Screenshot / Elder of Ziyon.

A truckload of palm fronds was exported from Gaza to Israel last month, apparently reversing a Hamas decision from 2011 that banned export of the palms to Israel for use as lulavs for the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Two years ago, an Al Jazeera report brought attention to a Hamas decision to ban the palm frond exports to Israel, resulting in a loss of $1 million of expected revenue for Gazan merchants.

According to anonymous pro-Israel blogger Elder of Ziyon, it’s unclear if Gaza exported the palm fronds in 2012. Proof of this year’s exports were from an Israeli government border crossing report that showed that one truck labelled “lulav (palm fronds)” came across the border in August, along with two truckloads of “spices” and 19 truckloads of “plastic boxes.”

The 2011 Al Jazeera report brought attention to the cross-border lulav trade and the economic sacrifices Hamas inflicted on Gazans by barring palm frond exports. The change in policy for 2013 may have been deliberate, compelled by Gaza’s economic crisis or the result of canny merchants eager to resume their lucrative lulav export business.

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Sukkot has been profitable for other exporters involved in honoring its traditions. Beside the lulav, Jews also use an etrog, or citron, similar to a large lemon, largely exported to Israel from Tunisia, and now Morocco, for the first time this year. But much etrog commerce eludes government tax and customs officers, Israeli media has reported.

The palm fronds are used by Jews as part of a Sukkot ritual, along with fronds from a myrtle and a willow, held together with the etrog. The “four species” are shaken in the four directions of the compass, then up and down, to symbolize global unity and G-d’s ubiquitous nature.

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