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Oct 23, 2007

Shmitta: an interview with the Badat"z about their policy

Arutz 7 conducted an interview with the head of the Badat"z Shmitta department. It is very interesting and I suggest anybody interested in shmitta issues should read it. I will give a rough English translation below for those who might have a problem with the original being in Hebrew.

The interview was conducted with Rav Meir Bergman, head of the Shmitta department of the Badatz Eidah Chareidis. The last thing the Eidah wants to do, he says, is to harm the Israeli farmers. Purchasing produce from Arabs is the least preferential of all the options.

Bergman differentiates between practical possibiities and halachic possibilities. He says, fro a halachic viewpoint the greatest preference is to purchase vegetables imported from abroad where there are no issues of shmitta and they have very little checking to do. All they would have to do with such produce is make sure no other produce got mixed in once the boat comes into the port. That is the easiest from all aspects.

The problem with that option is that it is not practical. the government does not let them import as it upsets the Israeli farmers, and "we have no interest in harming the Israeli farmers". Also the prices of imported vegetables is very high.

The next level of preference is attaining produce from the Arava region. The Arava region is part of Israel but has no halachic status of Israel regarding shmitta issues (my note: this issue is a can of worms and there are different opinions on this). From this region we do not deal with Arabs, it is all Jewish, there is little deceit and trickery going on so it is the best for us.

The problem with the Arava region is the produce is limited and does not grow all year round and not every type of vegetable is grown there.

That leads to the third level of preference, Rav Bergman says. Arab produce. This is the least preferable option for a few reasons. The whole issue of whether an Arab purchasing/owning land in Israel removing the kedusha of the land for shmitta is a machlokes. Aside from that, there are security concerns. Aside from that, it is difficult to supervise this produce due to their deceptions and trickeries (which sometimes force us to stop working with certain farmers after they are caught).

When asked how the Eidah can justify supporting farmers in Gaza (hostile to Israel; supporting terror), Rav Bergman responded that in a regular year 80 percent of Israel's produce comes from Gaza.

So in a regular year when you go to the supermarket and buy veggies, chances are very high that you are buying produce from Gaza. "You have to remember", Bergman says, "stopping imports from Gaza completely would be a terrible blow to the economy. It could be on a micro level importing hurts the Israeli farmers, but overall on a macro level it is good for the Israeli economy."

Bergman also responded to the claim that the Eidah causes security problems by importing veggies from these areas. He says they have no desire to cause security problems. Since a ban was declared on Gaza by Israel, there are no imports from there. They are not even pressuring Israel to allow them to import from there. The Eidah brings produce from Arabs in Judea and Samaria, from where most of Israel's produce is coming right now anyway. He repeats that we must remember that in a regular year the merchants prefer Arab produce as well because of the price.

During shmitta this is the lowest option in order of preference (but the most prevalently used).

Rav Bergman added that in stores that sell Eidah produce, everything is specifically marked (e.g. Arab produce, from abroad, Arava, etc.)so the buyer knows where things comes from and can choose what to buy.

Regarding OBD produce, he says the Eidah does not deal with OBD produce. It is too difficult to supervise this produce and most people do not know how to treat it properly and therefore it is not practical to deal with in large amounts.

Bergman concluded that there are problems with supply and there are chances that certain vegetables might have a shortage, such as beetroot, however the main vegetables are in supply. He also added that if you check, the prices of Eidah produce is only slightly higher than non-Eidah produce.


  1. What a crock- and a copout.

    And as to the spurious claim that "most people do not know how to treat it properly and therefore it is not practical to deal with in large amounts", they can learn just like they learn much more complex things like kashrut or niddah.

  2. he said: "in a regular year 80 percent of Israel's produce comes from Gaza"
    (if it was true then what is the issue with heter mechirah if jewish farmers do almost nothing anyway??)
    but the truth is that (according to the statistics given out by the ministry of agriculture for 2004 - only 20% (not 80% - there is a difference)of vegitables (and almost no fruit at all) is from the PA. (and most of that is cucumbers 28% and tomatoes 6%)

  3. this is all so confusing. A poor gal is just trying to do the right thing but everyone seems to have an agenda.

    chareidi vs OBD (is that Dati Leumi?) heck, throw in vs Machon shilo. which way is right?????

  4. The issue isn't- and shouldn't be, "chareidi vs OBD" (or heter mechira, for that matter), and it CERTAINLY shouldn't be Chareidi vs. Dati Leumi.

    The issue (like any other halachic issue) should stick to the issue. Rafi has written about it before- HERE, by the way. It's really just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but it's a good start.

  5. please let me make a correction to my previous post (that said 20% is from the PA)- mistake.
    actually ONLY 4-5% of veggies are usually imported from the PA and 95% is Israeli - and of teh israeli produce, 85% is Jewish and around 15% is "non-jewish" farmers.

  6. Miriam - I agree with Yishai and I would add that OBD is not the same as dati leumi. It could be that the specific OBD of Otzar Ha'aretz is more dati leumi, but there are other orgs doing OBD and it is just various people who want to eat produce that has kedushas shviis as the Torah says to (whether it is a mitzva or not is a different story)

  7. I am with 'Y'.

    The stats are false, and likely intentionally so!

    With the exception of q-cumbers 80% of our produce is Jewish in regular years!!

    Its all on the Misrad Hachaklaut website.

    I heard that there were stickers on each of the 15 kassams that hit Sderot yesterday that said: "With thanks to Moishy Shternbuch and the Eida Chareidit"


  8. It is interesting to note that the official position of the Young Israel is to prefer Heter Mechira over Badatz vegetables.

  9. anon and Y - the stats are false, but there is probably room to maneuver as there always is with stats. Stats can always be read different ways to support different positions depending on what you are trying to prove or disprove.

  10. 1. To quote Benjamin Disraeli:

    "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

    2. Ari- I found nothing to that effect about YI with a cursory Internet search. Do you have a link or some other info you can show us?

  11. Yishai-

    It is written in the Young Israel Guide to Shemitta 5768. They will send you a copy for free, I believe.


  12. Ari,

    Thanks, but I'll take a pass. I'm set with my קטיף שביעית that I got for signing up for the Otzar HaAretz and as is, my bookshelves are overflowing.

    Is this official YI policy or is it one person's opinion? Who wrote it? What's the basis of their psak?

    IMHO, I think it's very important to keep the option of the hetter mechira available because if they don't, then probably a lot of people will simply drop it altogether: Better a kula for those who need than nothing at all.


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