Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Kislev 5761 - December 6, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Lettuce Under Fire
by Binyomin Rabinowitz

Despite all that the Kfar Darom farmers have been undergoing in the months since Rosh Hashanah, they are making every effort to provide the shmitta observing community in Eretz Yisroel with bug-free produce. Day in day out, hour after hour, they cope with unbearable experiences: bus bombs, shooting, terrorist attacks, Molotov cocktails, rocks and more.

In addition to the danger at their very doorstep, agriculture -- their source of income -- has also been hurt. Recently, as the following story illustrates, the situation has worsened.

Two weeks ago the workers in the Chasalat -- Alei Katif company, which markets bug-free vegetables, rubbed their eyes in amazement, when an official, large black car passed through their gates. At first the workers thought that a Palestinian VIP had made a wrong turn and without realizing it had entered Kfar Darom.

Quite quickly it became clear that this car belonged to Thailand's ambassador to Israel, who had come for a visit to Gush Katif. Although the visit itself was cordial, the ambassador had been sent by the government of Thailand in order to evacuate the many Thai workers employed in the Gush Katif greenhouses as quickly as possible. These workers had long been replacing the Palestinian workers who now constitute a security risk.

On the ambassador's orders, these excellent workers left the greenhouses and Chasalat was left without farm hands. Company manager Lior Schwab Halevi says that the enterprise managed to fill the gap due to the generous help of Gush Katif youth who volunteered to package the vegetables. However, he adds, the damage is long-term, since there is a constant need for workers. Of course, the terrorist attacks in Kfar Darom have impeded work even more.

Lior notes that the most difficult problems are caused by constant blocking of the traffic routes, which are sometimes closed for hours at a time as a result of Palestinian rioting. This prevents transport of the produce from Gush Katif to the sales outlets throughout the country. Due to this situation, produce often lies in factory storerooms for long periods without reaching the consumer on time and some of it even rots and must be thrown away.

Despite all this, Chasalat is making every effort to overcome its many current difficulties and to meet the increased demand for its produce. "There is no doubt that certain shortages are felt in the markets at this time. But we are making every effort to overcome the problems, and to enable a steady supply of produce to the various markets, while fully maintaining the unique, strict kashrus standards of Chasalat," Halevi says.

Here we should note the tremendous investment made by Gush Katif in time for the shmitta year, in accordance with the guidelines of maranan verabonon, gedolei haposkim. 500 dunams of greenhouses were prepared according to these guidelines, in order to fill the huge demand for Chasalat produce in Israel as well as worldwide.

One of Chasalat's agronomists, Rabbi Yehuda Kalish, relates that Chasalat personnel made extensive efforts to prepare the greenhouses for shmitta in order to meet the most stringent demands of halocho in all that pertains to both shmitta and the produce's bug-free status. This has cost millions of shekel.

Rabbi Kalish himself was a near victim of a terrible lynch. One day, as he was on his way from the greenhouses to the packing plant at Kfar Darom, he encountered a planned ambush of Palestinian rioters. They hurled Molotov cocktails, steel rods and huge rocks at his car. While reciting Tehillim, the bleeding Rabbi Kalish managed to flee his attackers and to reach the plant, where he received first aid. Within a short time, he regained his strength and returned to work, in order not to cause excessive delays in the provision of the agricultural produce.


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