HaGaon HaRav Yosef Efrati, who heads the Beis Medrash L’Halacha B’Hisyashvus, paskened on Tuesday that it’s forbidden to plant trees in the Negev during Shemita despite fears of the Bedouin takeover of the area, amid a coalition crisis spurred by a tree-planting ceremony.
The Bedouins rioted against the planting of the trees, the left-wing Knesset members supported ending the practice, and the right-wing members slammed them for their lack of Zionism and their abandonment of the Negev to the Bedouins, insisting that the planting will continue.
The Chareidi MKs had yet another view of the topic, slamming the planting of the trees during a Shemita year as halachically forbidden. In the incident’s wake, a shaila on the issue was sent to HaRav Efrati, a world-renowned halachic expert on the topic.
“Unfortunately, for several Shemitos, there have been state and public institutions that even when they were requested to keep Shemita, they continued to plant under the banner of “rescue plantings,’ on the pretext that without it, foreigners will take control over the land,” HaRav Efrati wrote in response. “They claim that they received a heter from certain Rabbanim.”
“It’s needless to say that the situation today cannot be compared to the situation during the time prior to the Chazon Ish, when there was fear that if the land wasn’t plowed, foreigners would take over the land. At that time there was a real fear that the land would be taken over as the non-Jewish authorities definitely wouldn’t have supported the Jews taking control of the land. Contrary to that time, all that needs to be done now to protect the land is continuously supervise it throughout the year and thwart its illegal takeover.”
Rav Efrati concluded by stating that “from a halachic standpoint planting cannot be carried out in Eretz Yisrael on the pretext of yishuv Eretz Yisrael. The land should be protected from being taken by foreigners and double the amount of planting should be carried out beginning on Gimmel Tishrei תשפ”ג. And in the sechar of keeping Shemita, we’ll be zocheh to yishuv Eretz Yisrael and the geulah shleimah.”
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)