Thousands of people participated Wednesday in a parade and celebration held to honor farmers and farm workers who fully observed the laws of the Sabbatical Shmitah year.
The year, which ends on Sunday night as Rosh Hashana begins, does not entirely complete the cycle for many farmers, however, due to the complexities of the growing seasons and the various types of produce involved.
The time that farmers can replant, or begin their crops anew, varies according to the crop due to a combination of agricultural, economic and halachic (Torah legal) reasons.
“Shmitah for citrus is the eighth year,” according to Shimon Chazut, a farmer in Moshav Gimzu. “For olives it’s the eighth year… with grapes, until you sell the wine it’s the eighth year too. It will be much harder in the eighth year than in the seventh.”
Dave Matkowsky, an alumnus of Yeshiva University, established the nonprofit organization The Shmita Fund in order to ease the financial burden of Israeli farmers who are fulfilling this central religious-national imperative.
Currently there are 3,453 Shmita-observant farmers who need help to get through this cycle and get back on their feet, according to Matkowsky. The budget for the last Shmitah was $15 million. This cycle, with over 1,000 additional farmers, will cost $22.5 million.