Sunday, November 9, 2014

Elder Of Ziyon - Israel News: Why are these rabbis wearing keffiyehs?

Well, this is a strange sight.

Here's a hint:

Yes, those are Jordanian police.

At this point you may be forgiven for thinking, "WTF?"

Every seven years, the Torah commands that land that belongs to Jews in Israel not be sowed or harvested. This mitzvah is known as shmitah. When modern religious Zionists started farming, they came up with a legal fiction/loophole of selling the land to a non-Jew to be able to continue to work the land and sell the produce.

This year is a shmittah year.

In more recent decades, many haredi Jews decided they didn't want to use this loophole any more, so they essentially do not farm - or buy - produce of Israel during this year.

These rabbis struck agreements with dozens of Jordanian farmers to buy produce from them this year. They have been going there every month or so to inspect the crops. But the Jordanian authorities as well as Israeli police told them, for their own safety, not to walk around the kingdom looking like rabbis, especially with the Muslim Brotherhood being active in the kingdom. Wearing the keffiyeh makes them look a bit like village elders, so it is a reasonable disguise.

Arab newspapers picked up on this story around Rosh Hashanah, but Israel's Kikar HaShabbat had a story on it this week that was picked up by more Arab media.

This is controversial in Israel as well. Here's an article by an American haredi spokesperson explaining their side of the story.