Etrog
Citron shopping in Jerusalem, 2012. Photo by Emil Salman
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Doram Gaunt
As a symbol for Sukkot, the etrog must be handled with care. As such, it's become an apt metaphor in politics as well. Photo by Doram Gaunt

U.S. authorities have released travel guidelines for Jewish passengers during the upcoming Sukkot holiday. You can carry etrogs - but be prepared to have the fruit searched.

“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, noting the dates of this year’s Sukkot holiday, from Sept. 18-25.

The TSA notice said, however, that all passengers undergo security screening at checkpoints.

In a separate statement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection also noted that the four species were allowed entry, but noted a number of restrictions subject to inspection.

“Travelers will be asked to open the container with the etrog and unwrap it,” its advisory stated. “The agriculture specialist will inspect the etrog. If either insect stings or pests are found, the etrog will be prohibited from entering the United States. If neither is found, the traveler will be allowed to rewrap and re-box the etrog 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.

In a press statement noting the allowances, Rabbi Levi Shemtov, who directs American Friends of Lubavitch, also 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 davening in 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.