I received a letter from Tzohar today inviting me to an emergency meeting immediately after Sukkot. What's up? They have decided to set up an alternative Rabbinate for Kashrut! What? Did I hear properly? Yes! A new Rabbanut! This is backed by Rav Druckman, Rav Amital, Rav Lior, Rav Medan, Rav Blumensweig and many others.
What is going on? The cause is simple. The letter explains that many local Rabbinates refuse to recognise the Heiter Mechira.
Let me explain. The Heiter Mechira is a mechanism used during Shmitta year - this year - by which the farmer sells his land to a non-jew for the year. The HEiter Mechira has always been controversial and indeed it relies upon a combination of leniencies. Nonetheless, it is the only way to allow Israel to continue its agriculture and exports during the Shemitta year. And it is also the only way to ensure that Israel is not absolutely at the mercy of imported food throughout this year! Traditionally the Rabbanut backed the Heiter Mechira. Officially they back it this year too.
But according to the Tzohar letter (and this article) some local Rabbinates are refusing to grant a Hechsher unless the establishment purchases food that are Mehadrin i.e. from outside Israel OR bought from Arabs.
What is wrong with this?
1. It means that the entire agricultural infrastructure of Israel will collapse endangering the parnassah of 20,000 families.
2. Do we want to strengthen the Arabs of Gaza and the West Bank with this enormous revenue?
3. What about export quotas and market share in the EU etc. These things have been worked for after years of negotiation etc. In this year it could all be lost.
4. Shmitta is Derabbanan in our times. Many poskim feel that the Heiter works especially when the entire issue is DeRabbanan - Rabinical law rather than Torah law. So why are we endangering Israeli agriculture for a deRabbanan?
5. The prices of Mehadrin Shemitta foods are VERY EXPENSIVE. Regular stores and restaurants will find it uneconomical to comply with the strict imposition of these Kashrut Authorities. Hence they will simply function without a Kashruth license!
Less Kashruth (except in Ultra-Orthodox areas) and maybe NO Kashruth in many cities.
A major (maybe fatal) hit to Israeli farming.
And on very little Halakhic ground.
Here is a quote from Jpost. Look at that list of cities!:
... in several cities - including Ashdod, Bat Yam, Petah Tikva, Rehovot, Hadera, Afula, Kfar Saba, Jerusalem and Herzliya - the local rabbis refuse to recognize heter mechira. Instead, they demand that their produce be Arab-grown or imported.
As a result, Jewish farmers would be blocked from selling their produce to kosher food concerns.
Only venues that are not under kosher supervision would be able to sell the produce. In contrast, restaurants and other food venues that choose to retain kosher supervision would be forced to buy their produce from haredi supervision operations at a significantly higher price.
Many retail food chains prefer forfeiting kosher supervision rather than paying more for fruits and vegetables.
Well done to Rabbinate! Yashar Koach! or rather... WHAT ARE YOU THINKING???!!!
So what is happening? Religious Zionist Rabbis are going to set up their own Kashrut Rabbinate!
And about time too!
They WILL rely on Heiter Mechira and WILL provide a Kashrut which will allow the average Israeli to keep Halakha in the most reasonable and Halakhic way possible.
The Israeli Rabbinate has a mandate to provide Kashruth for all Israel. Not to represent positions which provide hardship, chumra, and eventually limit Kashruth to none other than the committed minority! It has abrogated its mandate!
I believe that this is the tip of the iceberg.
Add that to the Batei Din for conversion already controlled by the Religious Zionist Rabbinate AND the attempts to set up divorce courts more aware of the needs of Women, under REl-Zionist auspices. Add in the fact that civil marriage could be instituted soon here. We are witnessing the crumbling of the Rabbinate as we know it. Tragically , it is the Rabbinate itself that has brought its own demise.
Unfortunately, the increasingly narrow scope of the Rabbanut has made it despised by wide groups in the Israeli public. Anything from Marriages to Funerals are unpleasant affairs. And this Kashruth fiasco is typical.
Hopefully the body that will offer an alternative will create a Kiddush Hashem and restore real Judaism to the people.