And ye shall take you on the first day the fruit of goodly trees, branches of palm-trees, and boughs of thick trees, and willows of the brook, and ye shall rejoice before the LORD your God seven days. (Leviticus 23:40)
The United States Travel Authority released new guidelines over the weekend with regard to Jewish travelers over the Sukkot holiday, which begins Wednesday night at sundown. While the new regulations do allow passengers to bring the traditional “Four Species”, the etrog, a lemon-like citron fruit, may face customs inspection, according to The Times of Israel. Additionally, a ban on the European willow branch will remain in place, the TSA said.
“TSA’s screening procedures do not prohibit the carrying of the four plants used during Sukkot – a palm branch, myrtle twigs, willow twigs, and a citron – in airports, through or security checkpoints, or on airplanes,” the Transportation Security Administration said in a statement. The TSA notice noted that all passengers undergo security screening at checkpoints.
Separately, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection made a similar declaration stating that while the spices were permitted on board the flight, they may be subject to inspection at the airport. “Travelers will be asked to open the container with the ethrog and unwrap it,” its advisory stated. “The agriculture specialist will inspect the ethrog. If either insect stings or pests are found, the ethrog will be prohibited from entering the United States. If neither is found, the traveler will be allowed to rewrap and re-box the ethrog for entry into the United States.”
Twigs of willow from Europe are banned, it continued, and any sign of pests or disease will mean confiscation of the product.
According to the Times, in a press statement noting the allowances, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, urged observant Jews to cooperate with airline staff and authorities, for instance when praying aboard aircraft.
“Particularly, one should let flight attendants know if they will be daveningi flight BEFORE they begin, and understand the implications, as well as potential prosecution, for ignoring requests to sit down when requested, etc.,” said Shemtov, who consulted with Rabbi Abba Cohen, the director of the Washington office for Agudath Israel of America, in setting out the guidelines. “For example, flight attendants do not usually understand ‘nu,’ ‘uh,’ and hand signals, etc. especially when you are already in tallis and tefillin.”
Shemtov told JTA that religious Jews should appreciate the efforts of travel authorities to facilitate their travel.
“We in the Jewish community are fortunate to live with an unprecedented level of personal liberty,” he said. “I hope everyone will appreciate that cooperation with authorities that are so sympathetic to our traditions is the least we can do in return.”
The Times reported that three years ago a young Jewish passenger who was wearing phylacteries (tefillin) gave a flight en route from New York to Kentucky a scare, when the plane made an emergency landing in Philadelphia after the straps of the religious item were mistaken for bomb wires by a flight attendant.