Vegetables from the Aravah
by Rabbi Shlomo Shmulevitz
As of last week, the following vegetables from the northern
part of the Aravah, which the poskim say is sofeik
Eretz Yisroel, were still in the markets, some even
under the hechsher of vaadot shmittah: peppers
(all kinds), watermelons, melons, eggplants and potatoes.
The following are coming from the southern part of the
Aravah, which according to all opinions is considered
chutz la'aretz: watermelons, sweet potatoes,
eggplants, red onions, white onions ("dry onions"), red
pepper and potatoes. This produce does not have kedushas
According to the reports of the Ministry of Agriculture, no
produce is expected to arrive on the markets from the Aravah
after June 15 (24 Sivan). Observers say that one should
allow about an extra week after this date to be sure, but
this means that by the beginning of Tammuz there should be
no fresh produce from the northern Aravah on the markets.
At the request of MK Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz, the Finance
Minister has agreed to extend the exemption for customs
duties that has been granted to produce until the end of the
shmittah year. At the beginning of the year, former
Finance Minister Shochat agreed to allow an exemption for
six months, citing the shortages caused by the Intifadah.
Now Finance Minister Sylvan Shalom has extended this
arrangement until the end of the year.