JERUSALEM — An Arab merchant from Nazareth plans to revive the ancient tobacco caravan route through the Middle East by importing 1 million packs of Egyptian cigarettes to Israel.
Elus Shalloufe, 35, a Christian Arab importer, maneuvered his way through the intricacies of Egyptian and Israeli bureaucracy to sign an unprecedented business deal to bring "Cleopatra" cigarettes from Egypt to his hometown.
The deal would mark the first time that cigarettes from Egypt have been marketed in Israel since the two countries signed a peace treaty eight years ago.
It is estimated that more than 30% of all Israeli adults smoke, and Shalloufe said he is taking a calculated risk in importing the cigarettes.
"I don't know if the Jewish people like the Arabian flavor," Shalloufe said. "But I feel I must try to sell them here."
Beginning Saturday, the importer plans to sell 1 million packs of the cigarettes across the country and in the Israeli-occupied West Bank for the same price as locally produced cigarettes, which generally cost about 1 shekel, or 60 cents, a pack. In contrast, a pack of imported American cigarettes sells for about $2.20.