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Moroccan etrogs make their way to Israel for Sukkot

October 10, 2022

First shmita year after the Abraham Accords saw an influx of the citrus fruit from the north African country

Many Moroccan etrogs made their way to Israel for this year's Sukkot holiday due to shmita restrictions and the Abraham Accords facilitating trade between the two countries.

The citrus fruit is one of four species used by Jews during the week-long pilgrimage festival that began on Sunday evening. Oher species are the lulav, hadass, and aravah.

Normally, etrogs are produced domestically in Israel, but the shmita year just ended with Rosh Hashana. Shmita is marked every seven years of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. During the shmita year, all agricultural activity is forbidden in Israel under halakha, or Jewish law.

In August of 2021, Israel signed a deal with neighboring Jordan to prioritize agriculture imports during the shmita year. 

While Israel has maintained a peace deal with Jordan since 1994, Morocco signed on to the Abraham Accords more recently that normalized relations with the Jewish state which also included the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Sudan.

With Orthodox Jews unable to harvest etrogs in Israel, a massive number of them were imported from Morocco, JTA reported.

The fruit is cultivated in villages high in the Atlas mountains of the north African country, around the beach town of Agadir.

Einat Levi, the former head of economic affairs at Israel’s diplomatic mission to Morocco, told JTA that the etrog trade symbolized the increasingly warm ties between the two countries after the Abraham Accords.

“It is symbolic because it shows how two religions can stand up for each other — so when the Jews cannot work their land, their fellow Muslims can supply what they need during that year, so they can keep their ritual and tradition,” Levi said.

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