Religious edict puts ILA in a bind
Residents of the moshavim Batzra, Bnei Zion, Harutzim and Rishpon are taking advantage of the current shmita year to avoid paying for using supposedly agricultural land for commercial purposes, reports the Hebrew weekly Ha'ir-Tzomet Hasharon.
By MIRIAM BULWAR DAVID-HAY
November 25, 2007 08:20
1 minute read.
Residents of the moshavim Batzra, Bnei Zion, Harutzim and Rishpon are taking advantage of the current shmita year to avoid paying for using supposedly agricultural land for commercial purposes, reports the Hebrew weekly Ha'ir-Tzomet Hasharon. They say the Israel Lands Authority cannot sue them for putting the land to extraordinary use this year, because the authority has "sold" the land and no longer owns it.
According to the report, in recent years the Israel Lands Authority has issued dozens of lawsuits against residents of the four moshavim for putting land allocated to them for agricultural purposes to commercial use instead, building numerous warehouses and businesses. The authority has asked the courts to stop these extraordinary uses and to issue orders for the structures to be torn down. It has also asked the courts to allow it to charge the owners for using the land in this way.
But with the beginning of the sabbatical year in September, the authority "sold" the land, giving the moshavim a possible way out. The biblically-ordained shmita year dictates that the land of Israel must be left to lie fallow once every seven years. Rabbis in modern Israel have agreed that "selling" the land to friendly local Druse, thus taking it out of Jewish hands, is an acceptable device that allows work to continue during the sabbatical year. The land is "sold" back at the end of the year.
A lawyer representing some 80 moshav residents said the authority was now caught in a "trap," because if it said the sale of the land was fictitious, the chief rabbinate would complain that the sabbatical year was being violated. But if it said the sale was real, then it had no rights over the land and no right to sue the residents. The newspaper said there was no response from the authority.
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