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The Religious Stuff

As per Leviticus 23:40, during the holiday of Succos (this year October 5-11), Jews are commanded to take one date palm, two willow branches, three myrtle branches, and one citron, and shake them around several times in each of the six directions, once daily, for the seven days of the festival. Jewish tradition mandates that the former three species be tied together in a very specific way, with the citron left on its own and held by the other hand. Severely oversimplified, but should suffice for this question. Relevant Wikipedia page

For the purposes of protecting and transporting these species, the common practice (at least in my community) is that the first three species (which, again, are tied together) are kept in a bag, usually made from plastic, fabric, or velvet with a zipper, or else a long, hard plastic case, with two pieces that snap together (no metal pieces); the citron is typically housed either in a wooden box or a cardboard one with some sort of foam cushioning it.

The Question

Given these species and packaging, what travel restrictions should I be aware of to transport these without checking them from the United States to Israel? Are there federal regulations (on either end) regarding such baggage, and does it vary from airline to airline?

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    Before anyone asks: Any questions regarding the practice discussed here (which, admittedly, sounds awfully weird when you describe it out loud) should be directed over to Judaism.SE, where I or another member of that community will be happy to answer your questions. The comments here are not the appropriate place for such questions. – DonielF Oct 9 '17 at 2:16
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    Roughly how large are these various objects / containers? – Nate Eldredge Oct 9 '17 at 2:43
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    Although this question is manifestly travel-related, I can't help thinking that its highly specialist nature makes it much better-suited to Mi Yodeya. – David Richerby Oct 9 '17 at 14:52
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    Is there a reason you can't just acquire the plants at your destination? From a Travel mindset, that's pretty much the #1 way to pack lighter. – stannius Oct 9 '17 at 15:46
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    @DonielF OK. I'll leave my comment, since your rebuttal of it will be useful to anyone else who was thinking along the same lines as me. – David Richerby Oct 9 '17 at 15:52
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Per the incredible article Etrog-runners held at Ben Gurion, Israel imposes an import duty and requires "permits from the ministries of health and agriculture" for these items. At least as of 2011, lulav imports by individual tourists were banned.

This 2015 article, from an official government site, states (via Google Translate):

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development makes it clear that any passenger who enters Israel may enter the country with a single etrog for personal consumption, and at the time of entry he must present it to the representative of the Plant Protection Services at the Ministry of Agriculture at the border crossing points (in his absence). The introduction of other species - lulav, myrtle, and willow is forbidden, since it is impossible to check the crops at the time of entry, and such unregulated income poses a tangible danger of introducing lesions that are dangerous to human and plant health and potential irreversible damage.

The Ministry of Agriculture reiterated this warning in 2016, though it indicates that Ministry staff were kind enough to supply passengers with "Made in Israel" replacements for confiscated items. I was not able to find a similar warning for 2017, but I haven't seen anything that indicates the rules have been relaxed.

In short, with the exception of one etrog per passenger if approved by customs officials, such items cannot be brought to Israel.

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    Based on the way your 2016 link is phrased, I wouldn't be overly surprised if the government made a practice of having replacements available for incoming passengers during the holiday; perhaps the OP could give Israeli Customs a call and ask? – chrylis -on strike- Oct 9 '17 at 5:24
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    I am not surprised that the citron is highly restricted, as citrus fruit is a critical export for Israel and I suspect diseases would gladly hop from an etrog to an orange. Plants are usually hard to bring across borders. – Andrew Lazarus Oct 9 '17 at 5:43

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