For the first time since 2007, produce from Hamas-controlled Gaza will be available in Israeli vegetable shops. Several tons of tomatoes are set to arrive in Israel next week, with other vegetables to follow.
Much of the tomato crop is expected to end up on the shelves of groceries and markets that cater to the haredi community, which does not allow the use of heter mechira produce at all. So far, these markets have used produce from Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, and from Jordan, but with tightening supplies from these sources, haredi groups have requested – and been granted – permits to import produce from Gaza.
In addition, the Gaza produce will be sold in Israel to make up for production shortfalls due to rules against working the land in Israel during the shemittah sabbatical year. While some vegetables are grown in Israel under the aegis of the heter mechira, which allows farmers to do some work in their fields, many of the activities surrounding planting new crops is forbidden – with a resulting reduction of the harvest.
The Gaza produce will be allowed to enter Israel after it is evaluated by Israeli health officials. The crop will be inspected for health issues, and the shipment containers will be inspected to ensure that no weapons or other contraband are smuggled into Israel. Palestinian Authority tax officials will assist in the inspection.
The haredi public relates to most Israeli produce during the year of fallow as forbidden, and buys most of its fruits and vegetables from Arab farmers. The bulk of the religious-Zionist public, on the other hand, adheres to the heter mechira - the temporary sale of the land to a non-Jew, who is not bound by the shemittah laws - and thus relating to the produce as grown on non-Jewish owned land and therefore largely permissible.