Itongadol.- In honor of the Sukkot holiday, the Israel Tax Authority has launched a campaign against stalls selling the traditional four species on suspicion of tax evasion. On Monday, the Tax Authority raided scores of stalls in Bnei Brak, Herzliya, Kfar Saba, Netanya, and other cities, as part of a wide-ranging campaign to catch criminals who are exploiting the holiday season to make a quick buck under the table.
The four species – willow, myrtle, etrog, and date palm frond – market is part of the Israeli Sukkot holiday scene, and the Tax Authority knows that a lot of money flows under the table in it. Stall owners have an aggregate turnover of millions of shekels during the holiday season, and many do not report their income, or report only part of it.
In addition to the local four species market, there is rampant smuggling of high quality four species products. In the past two weeks, customs at Ben Gurion Airport has seized 400 etrogs from three passengers who tried to smuggle them into the country without paying duty and without permits from the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health.
One of the smugglers was the head of a yeshiva in Betar Illit, who attempted to go through the "nothing to declare" lane at the airport with 125 high quality etrogs in his suitcases. His interrogation revealed that he entered the country with a second passenger, who had made it through customs. He was caught in the reception hall carrying the yeshiva director\’s hand luggage, which was also full of etrogs. The yeshiva director, who had no personal luggage, but only etrogs, claimed, "I travelled to Djerba (in Tunisia) to bring these etrogs for which we prayed."
Another etrog smuggler, a French Jew, arrived on a flight from France, was caught with 150 high quality etrogs that were meticulously wrapped. He said that he brought the etrogs from France as a mitzvah, "to distribute them among Jews in Israel."