Rabbis stir ‘shmitta’ storm

Some municipal rabbinates in Israel are challenging the status quo for the “shmitta” year.

The Jewish New Year, which begins next week, is under a religious law a “shmitta” period when farmland in Israel must lay fallow. Rather than be forced to import produce en masse and expensively, Israel in past shmitta years has staged temporary “sales” of local agricultural properties to non-Jews.

But this time the rabbinates of Jerusalem, Ashdod, Herzliya, Bat Yam and Rehovot are rebelling, Yediot Achronot reported Wednesday. According to the newspaper, grocery stores in those cities have been informed that they must import fruit and vegetables from abroad or risk losing their kashrut licenses.

The Olmert government, which like its predecessors is sensitive to any disruption of the secular-religious status quo in the Jewish state, reacted angrily.

“I will not allow the fervently Orthodox rabbis to force their views on the entire Israeli public,” Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon told Yediot.

“It is unthinkable that residents of Herzliya or diplomats who live in Herzliya would be forced to
eat only glatt kosher food this coming year and pay 10 shekels for a cucumber. I have ordered all imports of agriculture produce to Israel stopped.”

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