The holiday of Sukkot will soon be upon us, and Jews around the world will practice the mitzvah of waving the Four Species: the Lulav, Hadass, Aravah, and the Etrog. Traditionally, the Four Species were waved in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on all seven days of Sukkot, and elsewhere only on the first day. Following the destruction of the Temple, a rabbinic decree ordered that the Four Species be waved everywhere every day of the holiday, excluding Shabbat.
The Etrog is referred to in the Torah as “p'ri eitz hadar” (a fruit of the beautiful tree), and in Modern Hebrew refers to a yellow citron fruit (since hadar in Modern Hebrew refers to the citrus family of fruits). A special fruit, there are strict halachic laws on what makes an Etrog kosher, and it is traditionally wrapped in silky flax fibers and stored in a special box during Sukkot in order to protect it.
Etrogim that are brought into Israel are required to be approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and the taxes on them must be paid. However, customs employees at Ben Gurion Airport were stunned last week when they found more than 300 Etrogim without a government permit and on which taxes hadn’t been paid. The Etrogim were found in the possession of an Israeli couple who had arrived in Israel on a flight from Paris.
The Etrogim were found as part of a special blitz conducted by customs officials during the period around Rosh Hashanah, aimed at cracking down on individuals who pass through customs without declaring the goods they are carrying.
As is customary in many airports around the world, Ben Gurion Airport has red and green customs paths. Passengers with goods to declare are expected to go through the red path, while passengers with nothing to declare may go through the green path.
During the blitz, many passengers who had gone through the green path were stopped for a spot check. Thus, the 300 Etrogim were caught and confiscated by customs officials. An investigation has been opened against the couple.
A variety of undeclared goods were also caught during the blitz, including iPads, iPhones, jewelry, medicine, cigarette cartons, and even 200 Shofarot found in the possession of a manufacturer who claimed they were intended for a religious center in Israel.