Shmita Year Creates Higher Prices in Israel: Social and Geopolitical Implications Abound

Cornucopia

According to the Torah (Exodus 23: 10-11),* every 7th year the fields will lie fallow and no agriculture will be grown. This new year 5768 is the shmita year. From September 2007 to September 2008, no agriculture may be planted, cultivated, or harvested in the land of Israel.

Although the restriction applies only to the Land of Israel and not to Jews in the Diaspora, observant Jews will only eat produce grown by non-Jews on non-Jewish land. The shmita is strictly enforced in Israel by the Rabbinut (Rabbinical Court) who provides kashrut (kosher) certification to all food grown, bought, and sold in Israel. All fruits and vegetables must be imported from aborad, raising the price of produce to very high levels.

Not surprisingly, the hardest hit by the price increases are the country’s poor. The Orthodox community measures 30% of those living below the poverty line in Jerusalem, Israel’s largest and most densely religious city.

The expectation was that the majority of the produce would source from Gaza and the West Bank as it did during the last shmita year, however Israel has prohibited all imports from Gaza since Hamas’ June acquisition of power. Israel is now looking to Europe for fruit and vegetable imports. The Israeli Farmers Association estimates the annual lost at 1 billion shekels.

(My note: so if we concluding that Gaza and the West Bank are not part of Israel, can’t we move on from here with territorial transitions and the formation of a Palestinian state?)

Raising social questions about the state of the country’s poor and geopolitical questions about Israel’s relations with its neighbors, this 7th year has the potential to serve multiple purposes. Like an extended Shabbat, 5768’s cessation of activity and period of reflection could significantly impact Israel’s policies, especially as we look yet again at possibilities for peace in the Middle East.

* The Torah’s References to Shmita: Leviticus 25: 1-7, Deuteronomy 15: 1-6, Deuteronomy 31: 10-13, Nehemiah 10:32, 2 Chronicles 36: 20-21.

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5 Responses to Shmita Year Creates Higher Prices in Israel: Social and Geopolitical Implications Abound

  1. This article was extremely informative for this non-Jew evangelical Christian. What economic impact do groups like http://www.joshuafund.net/ have on Israel as they are probably helping the lower income Orthodox Jews?

  2. thenewjew says:

    Dear Eric,

    I’m so glad you found this post useful. It’s one of those weird things you wouldn’t know about otherwise that calls for a bit of explaining.

    Sorry for my delay in returning your comment, but I started to read about the Christian Millionaire Network and got completely distracted. It’s a compelling idea. There is a lot Israeli nonprofits could learn from American Evangelists.

    I couldn’t tell you specifically about the Joshua Fund except that it seems to be doing important work on behalf of Israeli civil society.

    Not right away, but in the future, I will be doing an entry on Christians who are working on behalf of Israel. I would be happy to e-mail you when I do if you are interested as I know you have some personal investment in the issue as someone who is trying to do good in the world.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Maya

  3. thenewjew says:

    Dear Eric,

    I also wanted to bring to your attention the Jerusalem Post’s Christian edition, which may be of interest. It can be found here: http://info.jpost.com/C006/ChristianEdition/.

    Best regards,

    Maya

  4. thenewjew says:

    New Link

    “IDF provides haredi soldiers with veggies grown by Gazans,” http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1192380562407&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull.

    Full text of article:

    “During the shmita [Sabbatical] year the IDF will accommodate the stringent kashrut demands of about 2,000 Nahal Haredi soldiers by providing fruits and vegetables grown by Arab Israelis and Palestinians, including those living in Gaza, Judea and Samaria.

    The vast majority of IDF soldiers, who do not adhere to haredi standards of kashrut, will eat fruits and vegetables provided by Jewish farmers according to a halachic loophole called heter mechira [permitted sale] in which farmers’ land is “sold” to a non-Jew for the duration of the shmita year.

    Many Jews actually refuse to buy fruits and vegetables from Israeli Arabs and Palestinians out of a desire to strengthen Jewish labor. Others are concerned that the proceeds from the sale of the produce will be used to fund terrorism.

    However, haredim reject heter mechira as a halachic option and are careful to eat only fruits and vegetables that are grown by non-Jewish farmers in land that does not belong to Jews.

    The first shipment of vegetables under the supervision of Rabbi Yosef Yekutiel Efrati, who is closely associated with Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the most important halachic authority of Lithuanian Ashkenazi Jewry, will be delivered on Chanukah, which begins December 5.

    In addition to the Nahal Haredi, who are all located on one base in the Jordan Valley, other soldiers who wish to adhere to haredi standards of kashrut will also be accommodated. Once every few days these soldiers will receive a special package of “mehadrin” fruits and vegetables.

    However, these soldiers will not have access to cooked Mehadrin vegetables.”

  5. […] “Shmita Year Creates Higher Prices in Israel: Social and Geopolitical Implications Abound&#822… […]

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