Anti-Zionist rabbis demand IDF protection during shmita year

Kashrut supervisors must enter Arab villages to ensure products grown on land belonging to non-Jews.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
July 27, 2007 02:21
2 minute read.
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A group of anti-Zionist rabbis demanded in a meeting Thursday with IDF commanders in the Jordan Valley that the army provide security for kashrut supervisors who enter the West Bank during the upcoming Sabbatical [shmita] year. Rabbis of the Edah Haredit, a conglomerate of Hassidic courts traditionally headed by the anti-Zionist Satmar rebbe, pride themselves on receiving no financial aid from the state and are ideologically opposed to the existence of a Jewish army. Nevertheless, these rabbis have demanded that the IDF provide protection to Edah Haredit kashrut supervisors. The kashrut supervisors' job during the shmita year is to enter Palestinian villages to make sure that all agricultural products shipped out of the villages were grown in land belonging to non-Jews. These supervisors prevent Jewish farmers from clandestinely shipping their own produce into an Arab village and claiming that it was grown on Arab-owned land. According to a senior Edah Haredit kashrut supervisor who was present at the meeting, IDF commanders stationed in the Jordan Valley said they would warn kashrut supervisors of potentially dangerous areas. The IDF would also give kashrut supervisors a panic button or some other emergency warning technology and, in some cases, supply military escorts. According to Jewish law, all vegetables that grow in Israel on Jewish-owned land during the shmita year, which starts on Rosh Hashana [September 13], are forbidden for consumption. Rabbis of the Edah Haredit are of the opinion that vegetables grown by gentiles on land that is owned by gentiles are permitted and are not sanctified by the land. In past shmita years, as much as a third of vegetables - such as tomatoes and cucumbers - under Edah Haredit supervision were imported from Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip. But in the wake of Hamas's takeover there, and the consequent break in ties and the closure of the border between Gaza and Israel, it is highly unlikely that Gaza farmers will be able to export their produce to Israel. As a result, kashrut supervision operations such as the Edah Haredit have been forced to look for alternative sources of fresh produce. According to a senior Edah Haredit kashrut supervisor, the Agriculture Ministry has refused to increase imports from Europe to replace the loss of Gaza produce. "So we have been forced to rely on the West Bank. The IDF has also told us that they have an interest in providing Palestinians with the extra business. If they want us to do business with the Palestinians, we need the IDF's help."

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