Those familiar with overseas travel are well aware of the paperwork necessary to re-enter the United States. You have to declare everything you purchased while abroad, gifts you received, and don’t even think about bringing back a plant. When passing through security at airports, you have to take off your shoes, unpack your computer, and leave behind your toothpaste. You can’t even take an unopened can of soda through security these days, but what about a lulav and etrog?
Well, thanks to the Orthodox Union, the traditional tools of Sukkot are now on the list of approved items. The OU’s Institute for Public Affairs announced today that it has reached an agreement with the Transportation Security Administration to allow lulavim and etrogim to pass through security from Sept. 30 through Oct. 13.
“TSA works closely with members of the Jewish faith to ensure our security workforce is familiar with the religious holiday Sukkot, and is familiar with the prayer items that passengers may be traveling with,” said Kimberly Walton, Special Counselor for the Transportation Security Administration, in a statement sent out earlier today.
In the same statement, Nathan Diament, the OU’s public policy director, said, “The Orthodox Union is pleased to work with TSA on this important issue. This special travel period will allow observant Jews to travel freely during Sukkot while still being able to practice the laws of Lulav and Etrog that are crucial to the holiday’s observance. We commend TSA on all of their efforts.”
For complete details, see the TSA announcement here.
So you may not be able to get this vegetation past customs, but you can at least get through security on domestic flights. The Big Lipowsky recommends just buying your lulavim and etrogim there if flying to Israel.