IDF to import Gaza produce on 'shmita'

Protection needed for kashrut supervisors in West Bank fields.

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August 20, 2007 00:14
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The IDF intends to import produce from the Gaza Strip on a trial basis ahead of the upcoming shmita (sabbatical) year, when Jewish farmers are forbidden by Halacha to harvest the land. Since Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip in June and the closure of the Karni crossing, the IDF has refrained from importing Palestinian goods into Israel. In past shmita years, Israel relied heavily on produce grown in Palestinian territory. According to Halacha, all produce grown in Israel on Jewish-owned land during the shmita year, which starts on Rosh Hashana, is forbidden for consumption. "We plan to conduct a few test runs to see if we can find the right mechanism that will work during shmita," a high-ranking defense official said Sunday. "We do not deal with Hamas and talk strictly with local Palestinian farmers and merchants." Col. Nir Press, head of the Gaza Liaison Administration, is responsible for arranging the importing of the produce. Due to Israel's policy of not talking to Hamas officials, Press is coordinating the transfer of the goods with Fatah officials in Ramallah who are in charge of the Gaza crossings on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Press is in touch with Palestinian merchants and farmers inside Gaza who can help him coordinate the transfer of produce into Israel during the shmita year. The IDF is also involved in setting up a similar mechanism in the West Bank, particularly in the Jordan Valley. OC Jordan Valley Brigade Col. Yigal Slovik has held meetings with religious officials to coordinate the transfer of produce from Palestinian-owned lands near Jericho to Jewish merchants. Religious authorities have asked Slovik to deploy soldiers in the fields on the days of the harvest to protect kashrut supervisors who will be there to ensure that the produce belonged to non-Jews. They want to ensure that Jewish farmers can't ship their own produce into an Arab village and claim it was grown on Arab-owned land.


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