Israeli farmers cry foul over army's local crop sourcing sabbatical
The Israel Defence Forces' (IDF) actions in the Gaza Strip have led some groups around the world to call for boycotts of the country's fruits and vegetables. Now, the army itself won't even buy Israeli produce.
The Times of Israel has reported the IDF said it would observe the Jewish sabbatical (shmita) year based a strict interpretation that prohibits the tilling of land, and only feed its soldiers with imported produce.
"The population of the IDF is diverse, including over 5,000 ultra-Orthodox soldiers, who do not recognize the heter mehira [lenient loophole allowing farming] during the sabbatical year," the army was quoted as saying in a statement.
"In order to preserve the unity of the camp, and to allow the entire IDF population to eat in a single kitchen, and in order to attain the national goal of drafting the ultra-Orthodox into the IDF… the army rabbinate has decided to avoid procuring vegetables [grown under] the heter mehira for the first half of the sabbatical year, until the end of February 2015."
Israel Farmers Association president Dov Amitai told the publication the army had committed to buying from Israeli farmers again in the second half of the year, but he claimed this policy was insufficient.
Additionally, that produce would come from the southern Arava desert outside traditional Jewish legal boundaries, along with stored crops.
The story reported the association threatened that farmers would refuse to supply the IDF if a clearer response to their concerns was not given.
Amitai said some Israeli hotels had followed the IDF in its decision, prompting concerns the trend would reach other industries as well, the story reported.
The industry leader urged Agriculture Minister Yair Shamir to hold an emergency meeting to prevent the army from importing produce.