This past Thursday, Jeremy Gimpel, one of the founders of the Arugot Farm received notice from the IDF that the vineyard that he and his partners planted on state land five years ago is slated to be destroyed, on the week of Tu B’Shvat no less, the Jewish holiday when its customary to plant trees, except during the Shmitta (Sabbatical) year.
At the height of Corona, at a time when tourism has been hurt most, instead of supporting the educational farm centered around tourism, the government decided to destroy the farm’s vineyard. An agreement had been reached a few months ago where nothing would be done to the vineyard until after the Shmitta year is over, when at worst the vineyards could be replanted in a new location.
Five years ago the vineyard was planted in the Arugot Farm by the Schwartz family in memory of their son Ezra, an American Jewish yeshiva student who was murdered in Gush Etzion on his way to deliver food to soldiers.
“There is no one claiming private ownership of the land. There is no lawsuit filed. There was no day in court. This seems to be a direct order from the Defense Ministry under the Bennett government,” Gimpel told JewishPress.com.
Bennett is making history with this demolition order. There hasn’t been a vineyard uprooted or an orchard destroyed on state land without a claim to private ownership in more than 15 years.
Gimpel was #13 of the Bayit Yehudi list when Prime Minister Naftali Bennett first entered politics as the head of the party in 2015. At the time, the Bayit Yehudi party received 12 seats.
Gimpel said, “Some people are saying that he is taking his revenge on me personally. I don’t know if that’s true. Ultimately it doesn’t matter. He won’t answer my messages and his staff is not returning my calls. The lack of humanity in that party is beyond comprehension.”
In one month the Bennett government passed a law to legalize illegal Arab construction, struck down the law to legalize the “young settlements” in Israel, and now they are proactively destroying a five year old Jewish vineyard without any competing claims on the land.
“We begged the land authority to not destroy the vineyards which we, as well as hundreds of volunteers have labored on for years – not to mention the hundreds of thousands of shekels of investment we have put into it. Despite the injustice of it, we asked them to wait for the Shmitta year to end and we would relocate the vines to anywhere they want. One is not allowed to even work the land on the Shmitta year, and for a Jewish government in the land of Israel to destroy a healthy vibrant vineyard in Judea feels – for lack of a better word – evil,” Gimpel said.
So far, the pleas of the partners of the Arugot Farm have been ignored.
“Planting trees in Israel is the most basic Zionist act and uprooting our vineyard in the middle of the Shmita year seems like a radical shift away from the party’s name of ‘Yamina’ [Rightward].”