Jewish farmer tends his vineyard (file)
Jewish farmer tends his vineyard (file)Israel news photo: Flash 90

The Knesset Finance Commitee on Monday authorized the establishment of a subcommittee to deal with the upcoming shemittah year. The subcommittee will be chaired by MK Zvulun Kalfa (Jewish Home), chairman of the Knesset Agricultural Committee.

At its first stage, until further funding is forthcoming, the subcommittee will have to conduct all its activities with a budget of only NIS 103 million. Members of the subcommittee will include MKs Yitzchak Cohen (Shas), Yaakov Litzman (UTJ), and Elazar Stern (Hatnu'a).

The next shemittah year will begin this coming Rosh Hashana (Jewish new year) in September. The somewhat complex issues of shemita were thoroughly explained in Arutz Sheva articles in 2007, ahead of the previous shemittah year, which began then. The funding is expected to be approved Sunday during the weekly government cabinet meeting. The Torah commandment to leave fields fallow for one year every seven years involves many complicated Halakhic (Jewish legal) issues, and opinions differ on how best to adhere to the laws without unduly harming farmers' livelihood.

Of the total sum, NIS 11.5 million will be available for educational organizations to provide assistance and guidance for farmers who wish to fulfill the precepts of shemittah. An additional NIS 2 million will be available to produce materials explaining the importance of shemittah.

Another NIS 2 million will be used for a special “Hakhel” ceremony, to take place at the Western Wall at the end of the shemittah year. According to the Torah, the entire nation is to gather at the Temple at the end of the shemittah year to hear the Torah read in public by the nation's leaders, in the Hakhel ceremony. The balance will be used to support farmers who need assistance in fulfilling shemittah properly.

According to Kalfa, the subcommittee will “provide solutions for the farmers of Israel during shemittah and in the following years. Among other things, compensation will be awarded to farms that observe shemittah and sustain losses. The subcommittee's budget will be increased in accordance with need,” he added.