Imported etrogim must pass check at airport

Bringing lulav, willow or myrtle plants prohibited due to difficulty of checking for abnormal abrasions.

Etrog 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Etrog 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Inbound passengers to Israel can each bring one etrog in their luggage for the holidays, but upon arrival to the airport or seaport, those toting the Succot citrus fruit must present their item to a representative from the Agriculture and Rural Development Ministry, or in his or her absence, a customs official, the ministry announced on Tuesday.
The representative will conduct a detailed visual check of the yellow fruit, in order to prevent the entrance of contagious lesions and pests into the country, the ministry said in a statement.
But while the rules have been bent for etrog entrance, passengers can by no means enter with lulav, willow or myrtle plants – the other three of the Four Species of Succot – as for these plants there is no feasible method of checking for abnormal abrasions, and “unsupervised entrance would be fraught with tangible danger of infiltration of pests that could damage to human, animal and plant health, and potentially cause irreversible harm,” according to the ministry.
“During the holidays many travelers enter and leave Israel,” Meir Mizrahi, head of the plant quarantine service at the Agriculture Ministry said in the statement.
“It is important to remember that no produce from other countries are permitted into Israel. Importing plants and produce from abroad without supervision is likely to introduce new pests and lesions and have the potential to cause irreversible damage to plants and agriculture in the State of Israel and thusly lead to morbidity in humans and plants.
“The damage caused as a result of the inculcation of such new lesions is manifested in a number of ways for which the entire population will pay a high price, including direct damage to humans and animals, increasingly-expensive agricultural yield, damage to quality of output, harm to agricultural production, closure of the export market and damage to the environment and to quality of life.”
Israel’s current 1,000 dunams worth of etrog land plots yield about 1 million of the fruits each year, of which about 700,000 are used at home and 300,000 are exported abroad, the ministry statement said.
Meanwhile, prices for the Succot citrus – which belongs to the same family as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, mandarins, tangerines and pomelos – can range between NIS 10 and 500, depending on the elegance of the individual etrog, but average at around NIS 40, according to the ministry.
The ministry’s decision to allow individual transports of single etrogim from abroad was part of an effort to accommodate religious observance and also stems from the ease at which representatives can examine the fruits at customs checks, the ministry said. As a rule, however, there is typically no importation whatsoever of citrus fruits to Israel, except in cases of special small-scale requests for etrogim from Calabria in southern Italy and from Morroco.
In recent years, the ministry statement continued, security has had to be tightened at Ben-Gurion Airport prior to and during the holiday season due to a proliferation of smuggling attempts of pomegranates, honey, the Four Species and other foods related to the holiday season – with suitcases full of the items particularly arriving from Italy, France and Morocco.