Get to Know our Participating Farmers

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Gilad Fine

Location: Bnei Netzarim, Southern Israel

Why did you become a farmer?

“I was raised on a kibbutz, Kfar Blum, in the north of Israel, and have an MS degree in Biotechnology. 

While I was studying Torah at Machon Meir, I heard about the Moshavim in the Chalutza region of Southern Israel, and we moved there and began to grow organic green vegetables that are Mehadrin. 

Growing greens that are both organic and Mehadrin is not a simple process, but I was always disturbed by the use of pesticides so this was important to me.

I started using hydroponic farming methods, substituting water for soil. After several failed attempts, I finally succeeded in achieving a high quality crop that is both organic and Mehadrin kosher. 

We are doing what we can to provide innovative, kosher and healthy agriculture, to forge cooperative initiatives with food production companies and work in good faith at all times.”

Why are you devoted to Shemita?

Now that the Shemita year is here, I feel tranquility and satisfaction that I have the privilege to keep such an important Mitzvah and to connect to my spirituality.

This Shemita year, I must shut down my business, which is an incredible challenge.

 
I am fully dependent upon the Creator this year, and am happy to have made this decision.”

Gilad Fine, Bnei Netzarim
Malachi Edels, Karmei Katif

Malachi Edels

Location: Karmei Katif, Lachish Region, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer?

I love working the land. I was raised in Atzmona, Gush Katif and learned the importance of settling the Land and working hard at a young age.

These were predominant values in our Moshav (agricultural community). Even during vacations, we would work on the farm.

After the disengagement from Gush Katif, we arrived in the Lachish region and had to start all over again. Unlike Moshavim where farmers had land and agricultural equipment, we literally started with nothing.”

Why are you devoted to Shemita?

We have vineyards and grow 4 different strains of grapes that are used for eating purposes.

This year, we are observing Shemita through Otzar Beit Din.*

This unique method means that on one hand our grapes will have a kedushat shevi’it (holy) status. On the other hand, the strict Halachot make it difficult to grow viable produce in large quantities and involves many financial risks.

With Mitzvot, we don't look to do the minimum. When building a Succah, choosing the lulav, or lighting Chanukah candles etc. – we do our best, Le'Mehadrin!

The same applies to Shemita – we strive to do what Hashem wants from us in the best way possible.

My father passed away a year ago; he was the one who encouraged me to work as a farmer – ideologically and economically.

The decision to observe Shemita was largely thanks to him and his commitment to this Mitzvah.”

*To learn more about the Otzar Beit Din method see Rav Rimon’s “Sefer Shemita.”  

Yaakov Sharabi

Location: Naveh, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer?

I am a second-generation farmer, raised in Atzmona, Gush Katif. As a child, I felt attached to the land through farming. After we married, we moved to Naveh near the Gaza strip. 

When we arrived, farming land was available and I began planting our orchard. I grow a particular strain of tangerines – the “Ohr” strain, which are among the highest quality tangerines in the world.”

Why are you devoted to Shemita?  

I greatly anticipated the Shemita year and looked forward to observing this Mitzvah. For years I have thought about how to keep Shemita and couldn't wait for the opportunity. 

It is a test of faith, and I believe Hashem will bring us whatever we need from wherever necessary.

This is arid land with little rain even in the winter. It must be irrigated every few days even during the Shemita year and is very costly. 

Since I own an orchard, we actually begin Shemita at a later stage. We already completed work on the fruits of the 6th year and are nearing the harvest which takes place around Chanukah. We have currently ceased fertilization and the weeds are growing.

During the Shemita year, I will not even enter the orchard.”

 

Yaakov Sharabi, Naveh
Eyal Ben Chamu, Be'er Ganim

Eyal Ben Chamu

Location: Be'er Ganim, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer? 

“I consider myself a true ‘man of the land.’ I grew up in an agricultural household on Moshav Bedolach, Gush Katif. 

After the disengagement, we chose to continue our mission of cultivating the land of Israel despite the financial hardship. We built new greenhouses close to the Gaza strip in Kibbutz Karmieh.

Rocket fire has regularly disrupted our work and lives over the past few years. 

I grow unique Asian vegetables that are used in Asian restaurants across Israel. But Covid-19 detrimentally affected my income.

Hundreds of Asian restaurants which were supposed to purchase our produce canceled orders during the height of the pandemic. They themselves had closed down because of the pandemic. Our vegetables simply sat and rotted because the orders were canceled. 

In addition to my own family, my farm supports 8 workers.” 

Why are you devoted to Shemita? 

I am deeply connected to the land and have never regretted becoming a farmer.

I could have chosen to start a different business after the disengagement but I wanted to continue to work the land of Israel and, with God’s help, will do so in the future, as well. 

This Shemita, I will stop working my land. It is a true test of our Emunah, and I pray about it every day.” 

 

Rav Yitzchak Sofer

Location: Sderot, Southern Israel

Farm Location: Chalutza Region, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer? 

Farming is an important Mitzvah and an ideal by which we live our lives. This is true in general, and especially in Chalutza where we make the desert bloom.

We grow cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and mini-sweet peppers together with our partners.”

Why are you devoted to Shemita?

We feel great joy that we are privileged to completely let the land rest. We very much wanted to reach this situation, and it finally worked out this year.

Two Shemitas ago, we were only just getting started. This year, we will stop working the land completely. It is not easy, but b'ezrat Hashem we will see only blessings, for us and for Klal Yisrael.

We hope and pray that all of Am Yisrael will be privileged to keep the Mitzvah of Shemita completely and in accordance with all its laws, and that Hashem will send us all His abundant berachot.”

 
Rav Yitzchak Sofer, Sderot & Chalutza
Sharon Cohen, Chalutza Region

Sharon Cohen

Location: Chalutza Region, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer?

I wasn’t always a farmer.  

After the disengagement from Gush Katif, we decided to take upon ourselves the mission of planting and cultivating the land of Israel. We were guided by an experienced farmer from Gush Katif and he led us through the process of building an agricultural infrastructure, an investment that cost millions of shekels. 

Today, we grow vegetables, including cherry tomatoes, red, green and yellow peppers, and eggplants. We also grow mini-vegetables (mini sweet peppers) that are child-friendly and are sold to the school system.

Our plants are grown in special greenhouses, as well as in open fields. I personally run a farm of 300 dunam (300,000 square meters) with a budget of 5 million shekels, in addition to a boutique olive oil production.

This too is not operating during the Shemita year.” 

Why are you devoted to Shemita?

Living a complete life as a Jew is inherently linked with agriculture. We believe that as farmers we are dealing with the most important activity, and it is an ideal that we pass along to our youth. 

I feel that this is particularly so during the Shemita year, when Am Yisrael continually becomes more holy (kedusha).  

Ours is the largest farm in the Chalutza region that has stopped working completely during the Shemita year. There is no income and the banks have cut our credit line.

We are in need of assistance so that the farm will not collapse and so we will be able to renew work after Shemita.

We seek to sustain what we have and to continue to grow.”

Rabbi Eli Finesilver

Location: Bnei Dekalim, Lachich Region, Southern Israel

Farm Location: Chalutza Region, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer?

After the disengagement we eventually settled in Bnei Dekalim.

Gush Katif made us recognize that there is a dire need to rebuild Zionism. On the one hand, we need Yeshivot, on the other hand, we need people of action. 

Practical agriculture based on Emunah and Mussar is a great challenge. The famous author, S.Y. Agnon, wrote that the world is divided into two kinds of people: the successful people and the honest people.

We want to change this equation and make sure the successful people of action are indeed honest and good.” 

Why are you devoted to Shemita? 

The Mitzvot related to the Land should be loved and cherished, and our cessation of working the land is putting into practice Shemita as it is described in the Torah

We are strongly connected to working the land, and it is not just a personal sentiment. This is the beginning of realizing our national vision and aspirations, and we are happy to be part of this process. 

Beyond specific support for farmers, Shemita reflects a belief in the vision of a Jewish State.

Shemita is a statement about how agriculture should look in our reality. 

Shemita is an investment in the future of our country.”

 
Rabbi Eli Finesilver, Bnei Dekalim & Chalutza Region
Yair Ziv, Chalutza Region

Yair Ziv

Location: Chalutza Region, Southern Israel

Why did you choose to become a farmer? 

The primary reason is the Mitzvah of settling the Land of Israel. Together with my partners, we were sent on this mission by Rav Zvi Tau to settle the wilderness in the area of Chalutza after the disengagement from Gush Katif. 

Why are you devoted to Shemita? 

People are deeply moved by our transformation of the desert.

To grow produce when all anyone ever saw before was a barren desert is an honor. We are part of a wonderous miracle, turning hte wilderness into blooming gardens. This is our shlichut (mission). 

We felt an indescribable spiritual uplifting as the year began with the wonderful Yamim Noraim – Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur – knowing that the Shemita year was to begin as well. 

My parents impacted my connection to Shemita. Their approach to the development of Eretz Yisrael throughout the years has left an indelible impression on us and has instilled within us a special feeling for the entire Shemita experience."