Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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28 Tammuz 5768 - July 31, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Keren Shevi'is Board Meets to Discuss Agriculture Ministry Obstacles

By Yechiel Sever

A special Keren Shevi'is board meeting held this week in Jerusalem centered on obstacles being laid by Agriculture Ministry officials to prevent financial support from reaching shomrei Shevi'is farmers, and countermeasures to increase the number of recipients.

The meeting was opened by Keren Shevi'is Director Rav Ben Tzion Kugler, who said although we are now heading into the final months of the Shmittah year, the organization still has many months of work ahead of it, after Rosh Hashanah as well. He also used the opportunity to recall a number of recently deceased activists, who were dedicated in their efforts to promote Shmittah observance — Rabbi Eliyohu Teitelbaum, Rabbi Boruch Borchard of the US and Rabbi Meir Luria. He also discussed the exhausting fundraising efforts, saying despite the difficulties the organization has seen siyata deShmaya every step of the way.

Rav Kugler and Rav Yosef Guttman of the National Center for Shomrei Shevi'is Farmers at Kommemiyus then proceeded to expand on the obstacles the Agriculture Ministry has been creating. They surveyed several meetings held to discuss farmers' trying efforts to contend with the draconian criteria ministry officials have formulated for receiving Israeli government support. Although the maximum amount they can receive is NIS 170,000 ($50,000) the regular financing and maintenance payments they owe to the banks for their land come to far more. "So far the Agriculture Ministry has transferred NIS 11 million [$3.2 million] of the approved budget of NIS 25 million [$7.2 million]," they noted.

Rav Shmuel Mordechai Mintz said based on previous years' experience he recommended not taking out additional loans during this period, adding that in the future MKs should be involved in formulating the criteria. He also voiced appreciation for Rav Kugler's selfless work to competently manage Keren Shevi'is on a volunteer basis.

A financial report for 2007 was then provided by an accountant, along with a proposed budget for 2008, including the percentage spent based on actual donations. The report and proposed budget were both adopted unanimously. The board also approved appointing an accountant to serve as a comptroller for the organization, as well as a managing committee made up of HaRav M.M. Mendelson, Rav Kugler, Rav Zilberstein and Rav Rafael Hoffman. Rav Kugler, Rav Zilberstein and Rav Hoffman were named authorized signatories.

Rav Kugler raised for discussion the question of whether to organize a central affair to mark the end of the Shmittah year, with all the considerable expenses such an event would entail. Several proposals were made and all of the board members agreed an event should be held as a show of appreciation for the thousands of committed shomrei Shevi'is farmers.

Closing remarks were made by HaRav Mendelson, who spoke about the many efforts made on a daily basis to guide the farmers in detail on how to keep the mitzvah of Shmittah in accordance with halacha. He also praised the board members for their important work toward keeping and expanding the mitzvah of Shevi'is.


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