couponing in the holy land

Frugal food shopping for the Anglo Israeli

Archive for the category “Shmitah”

Shmita news roundup- JNF, marijuana and more

Good news for people who use medical marijuana- the Rabbanut has permitted the use of medical marijuana during shmita.  It does not permit the use of marijuana for recreational purposes under any circumstances, however.  Source: Ynet

JNF (KKL in Israel) has published their policy statement regarding shmita.  Some of their policy changes include:

  1. There will be no ceremonial tree planting during the shmita year, except for specific circumstances that are approved by the Rabbanut.
  2. There will be no planting by students or anyone else for Tu Beshevat.
  3. JNF will not distribute seedlings for planting by outside groups, including bee farms.
  4. Preparation for planting in the year after shmita will be done on an individual basis with approval by the Rabbanut.
  5. Work to preserve trees is permitted, including destroying harmful insects and diseases as well as activities to prevent fires.
  6. The olive harvest during the shmita year (תשע”ה) will take place without any halachic restrictions.  Regarding the olive harvest the year after shmita, the JNF and the Rabbanut will release their policy statement in the coming months.
  7. Harvesting carob during the shmita year  (תשע”ה) can take place without any halachic restrictions.

For a full list (Hebrew), go to their web site.

מדריכות במשתלת גילת. צילום: דוד גרינשפן

The Israeli government has just advertised that they will allocate 100 million shekels for shmita purposes next year.  It will be broken down into the following categories:

  1. 45 million shekels to support farmers who stop all activities on their farms;
  2. 20 million shekels to support farmers who won’t harvest their fruit but will maintain their orchards;
  3. 11 million shekels to support organizations who run an otzar beit din;
  4. 5 million shekels to support farmers who grow produce off the ground, which is not subject to shmita regulations.

The article does not say where the rest of the money will go.  Source: Haaretz


Shmita: Where exactly is Israel?

In order to fulfill the requirement of shmita, we are forbidden by the Torah from performing certain types of work on our fields:

  1. harvesting- קצירה
  2. sowing – זריעה (includes planting – נטיעה)
  3. pruning vines – זמירה
  4. cutting grapes – בצירה

There are other agricultural activities that were forbidden by Chazal/Sages:

  1. clearing fields of stones – סיקול
  2. weeding – נכוש
  3. manuring – זבול
  4. hoeing – עדור
  5. watering – השקאה

This is required for all people residing within the land of Israel. The borders of the land of Israel, have changed frequently over the years, from Biblical times:

To the time of King Shaul and David:

To the current borders:


So how is it decided which borders to use?  Logic might dictate that whatever the current political borders of Israel are, that is where shmita must be observed.  Unfortunately, even the current political borders are disputed and some even dispute that there should even be a political border of Israel.  Therefore, as in most things in Judaism, It is not such a simple question to answer.

If you compare the different maps, you can see that the western border of Israel is the Mediterranean Sea.  The northern border has stretched occasionally into Lebanon and Syria.  We don’t import produce from those countries so that is no problem.  The more southern city of Beit Shean and the surrounding area has been disputed as possibly being outside the land of Israel.  The eastern border has stretched into parts of Jordan (I’ll get back to that issue) and there is a considerable difference between the southern borders on the different maps.  The southernmost border of Israel has been subject to dispute over the years.  Eilat is almost always considered to be “chutz la aretz”.

This is a map of the wandering southern border of Israel regarding shmita:


What is the significance of declaring an area “chutz la aretz”?  In those areas the land (and therefore the produce) does not have kedusha/holiness and the farmers are able to work the land during the shmita year.  For the consumer, this means lower prices and better quality produce that what is traditionally purchased from the Palestinian Territories.  This year, the fields of Ein Yahav in the upper Arava were declared outside of Israel by the Rabbanut.

Being the start-up nation, there are “shmita start-ups” to help ease some farmers’ difficulty in observing shmita.  For example, some farms within the borders of Israel have laid sheets of plastic over their fields and placed large quantities of dirt imported from Europe on top in which they will be planting their crops.

One of the more serious issues is the illegal dumping of produce that does have kedusha on farms or countries that do not.  Therefore it is very important to have supervision in the fields to ensure that everything is properly labelled.  The Badatz has set up a “hothouse city” in Jordan this year under their strict supervision to provide mehadrin vegetables from chutz la aretz during shmita.  Apparently there is strong support on the Israeli and Jordanian sides for this project, which brings employment to the region and since Israel has relatively warm relations with Jordan, the Israeli government is able to go to Jordan and inspect the produce with ease.

The whole concept of defining Israel as not part of Israel can have political ramifications as well.  The EU has already declared the areas of Judea and Shomron as not part of Israel.  Is it possible that our declarations can be used to strengthen the argument for the creation of a Palestinian State in those areas?  For that same reason many people reject the heter mechira, which sells the land to a non-Jew the same way we sell our chametz on Pesach.

 Therefore, when buying produce during shmita it is important to understand why there is a difference in the prices based on its classification.  Next up: heter mechira and otzar haaretz.


The Borders of Eretz Yisroel by Shmorei Shviit

‘Hothouse City’ Gears Up for Shemittah in Jordan by Hamodia

Shmita and the term “Hutz La’aretz” by

(גבולות הרמב”ם: ‘גבולות מסעי’ או ‘ברית ביה”ב’ (תגובה by The Institute for Torah and the Land of Israel

הרבנות קבעה, החקלאים חוגגים by Israel National News

נסיעה לירדן לפיקוח על פרי אבטיח – רשמי מסע by the Plant Protection and Inspection Services

Rosh Hashana is coming- cook your vegetable dishes now!

Normally I start warning you in July about the impending collision between the beginning of school and the month of non-stop holidays.  This year we have all been somewhat distracted by kidnappings, Tzuk Eitan, and more.  With the 72 hour truce currently holding, I will be cautiously optimistic and begin my persistent reminders.

Why do we need to start thinking about Rosh Hashana now?  For those of us with children, the beginning of the school year is a very stressful time- learning schedules, getting all of the supplies/clothing/lunches organized, finding chugim, babysitters, tzaharonim and more.  The last thing we need to worry about is making meals for a month of holidays!

This year there is another issue that needs to be addressed- shmita.  However you decide to hold, shmita invariably results in increased prices for fruits and vegetables and occasionally (unfortunately) the guest who doesn’t hold by your standards.  For this reason I recommend you start stocking your freezer with as many vegetable dishes as you can- potato kugels, pashtidot, apple pie, etc.  This way you are taking advantage of the currently low prices and are using vegetables and fruits that don’t have holiness- kedusha.

What vegetables are cheap this week? Potatoes, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, and onions have been 2.90 shekels/kg in several stores.  Last year I posted my freezable potato kugel recipe; today I will post my carrot cake/kugel recipe.  This recipe makes 4-5 English cake tins depending on the size of the tin.  They freeze with ease for several months.

Carrot Kugel (Pareve)

Adapted from The Kosher Palette


1 bag of carrots

3 cups of whole wheat flour (even if your family doesn’t like whole wheat, this is a great recipe to hide it in) or white flour

1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 1/2 cups white sugar

4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups canola oil

6 large eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract


Peel and boil carrots until they are completely soft.  Mash them with a fork.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a fork until completely combined.  Pour into pans about halfway full and bake in a 180C oven for 45 minutes (for turbo drop to about 20 minutes).  Kugel is cooked when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  (Don’t  forget this step- it is hard to tell if they are cooked through without confirming)  Wrap well with aluminum foil when cool and freeze.

Feel free to post your TNT (tried n’ true) freezable fruit/vegetable recipes as well!

SHMITA: The last day for planting is coming soon!

The Ministry of Agriculture, the Vaadat Shmita, and The Ministry of Religious Services have joined together to create a web site full of information for farmers, gardeners, and those responsible for public gardens.  Unfortunately the information is all in Hebrew, but there is a place where you can send in questions and comments, so feel free to ask for translations.

They have publicized two very important dates:

  1. Shmita begins on the first day of Tishrei, 25 Sept 2014.
  2. All new planting (נטיעה והשתילה) must be finished by Tu B’Av- 11 August 2014


שנת שמיטה תשע"ה



Collateral damage from Tzuk Eitan: milk and produce?

If you have been in the supermarket recently, you might have seen a sign similar to this one:


Right now, there doesn’t seem to be a lack of produce in the store and the prices are relatively low, but how long will it last? What produce is likely to be the most affected by the war?

You might not realize when we hear that a rocket fell in a “Shetach Patuach” (open area), it means that the missile might have fallen in an agricultural area which has crops or livestock.  According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there have been a number of fields and greenhouses damaged from missiles along with 3 poultry houses and 2 dairy farms. Additionally, movement and encampment of Israeli troops around Gaza can also damage fields.  Add to the mix the abandonment of foreign workers subsequent to the death of a Thai agricultural worker and the urging of the Thai government to have Thai workers relocated out of danger and there is a serious risk to the ability of the South to provide produce to the supermarkets.  A representative of Kibbutz Alumim who was interviewed, however, said that July-August is not that damaging to the fields because it is “between seasons.”  There are peppers growing in greenhouses and there are peanuts to be picked in the fields near Ashkelon.  The army has built trenches in an area that was just recently their organic carrots field and it will take years to rework the land to be ready to plant again.  They aren’t complaining, however, especially considering that next year is a shmita year.  Other kibbutzim weren’t able to collect their carrots and they are still laying in the ground.  Kibbutz Saad wasn’t able to package their carrots so other kibbutzim helped them.

Not only produce is affected by the shelling.  Kibbutzim in the area report a decrease in their cows’ milk production because the cows are too stressed.  Some had to drop the number of milkings because the farmers are spending all of their time in their protected rooms.  One kibbutz lost 105 calves and has 120 wounded from rocket fire.  This will affect future generations of cattle in the dairy farm since these calves are used for replacements for the cows currently being milked.

There is one bright spot in this story.  The organization HaShomer HaHadash has assembled groups of volunteers to go south and help harvest, package, and do whatever else is needed for these farmers or their family members who received a tzav 8 or in place of Thai workers who have left.  [If you are interested in volunteering, email or call 08-6801314]

Farmers do receive compensation from the Ministry of Agriculture for their losses based on the value of their past earnings.  These numbers vary depending on how far away they are from the Gaza Strip- from 80% if they are up to 7 km away to 40% if they are 7-40 km away and 20% if they are over 40 km away.  Considering the long range and increased capability of the missiles used during this current campaign, farmers are complaining that the 40% should be raised to 80%.  They also petitioned the Ministry of Defense to provide protective shelters for workers in the field to allow them to continue working.  The request was passed to the Ministry of Agriculture, but after the death of the Thai worker the Knesset directed the Ministry of Defense to provide shelters.

When all that is said and done, what produce is expected to be more expensive as a result of Tzuk Eitan?

  • Fruit- not grown in the South.  Prices should stay the same.
  • Cucumbers- grown in the Center.  Prices should stay the same.
  • Potatoes and carrots- grown in the South.  Prices for now should stay low because inventory is being taken from refrigerated stock.
  • Tomatoes- grown in the South.  Prices went up in general because of the current heat wave.  There is a significant amount of tomatoes grown in the North so there shouldn’t be a lack of tomatoes on the shelves.
  • All produce next year- since the fields can’t be prepared for next year, expect a decrease in inventory and an increase in prices.
  • Milk- the price is controlled by the Ministry of Agriculture and there is enough milk production in other areas of the country to prevent a shortage.

Expect this information to change as the campaign continues and shmita approaches.

Source: Ynet 14/7/2014, Mekor Rishon 25/7/2014, Motzash 25/7/2014

Shmita lecture by Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon 16 July 2014 in Efrat

Aliyah tip #7- Shmita

It is appropriate that Aliyah tip #7 is about shmita – the seventh year in the agricultural cycle.  For those of you who don’t know, during the shmita year we are required to allow the land a chance to rest.  As you could imagine, this leads to many questions and the potential for considerable division among the different segments of religious and non-religious Jews.  The division rivals that of Pesach- kitniyot, gebrakht, mustard, garlic, etc. becomes heter mechira, otzar beit din, yevu m’chul, and more.  For new olim the different groups (I hate to use the word “factions”) can be quite confusing.  Over the summer I will be going through the history of shmita, the different terminology used, and many differing opinions in subsequent posts to help each of you make an informed decision as to what opinion you will hold by.  My main concern, however, is that we use this shmita year not as a way to grow further apart from each other and our land, but to help us become even closer.

This Thursday, 17 July 2014 will be a large one-day conference on shmita at Kibbutz Gan Shmuel.  Admission is free and there will be shuttle service from the Binyamina train station from 8am-10am that day.  If you sign up in advance, there will also be a shuttle from the Arlozorov train station in Tel Aviv.  The conference is in Hebrew.  For more information, go to their web site or their Facebook page.


Click on the schedule to see a full-sized copy.

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