May one violate Shabbat to purchase land in Israel?

April 25, 2018 16:57
A BILLBOARD advertises new apartments for sale at a construction site in Ma’aleh Adumim in 2009

A BILLBOARD advertises new apartments for sale at a construction site in Ma’aleh Adumim in 2009. (photo credit: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS)


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 In previous columns, we’ve discussed the scope of activities permitted to settle the land, ranging from waging war on Shabbat to utilizing so-called “honey traps” to capture enemies or traitors. In this essay, we’ll discuss whether one can violate Shabbat to complete time-sensitive purchases of land from non-Jews.

Even during eras of foreign rule and exile, Jews never ceased claiming their national entitlement to the Land of Israel. Nonetheless, that did not mean that Jewish law did not recognize the property rights of individual gentiles to parcels of land. Accordingly, the Talmud distinguishes between the status of produce grown on gentile and Jewish lands, with medieval scholars affirming that individual property rights of gentiles are respected, even if the territory had previously been possessed through conquest (kibush) or war. Furthermore, while the Talmud strongly discourages selling property in Israel to gentiles (lo tehanem), the sales are recognized as valid.


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