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Berman to Egypt: Let My Lulavs Go

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 ...

549494_lulav2.jpg
549494_lulav2.jpg

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 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.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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