The leading rabbis of the haredi Lithuanian stream, headed by Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, came out this weekend against the practice of "heter mechira", the sale of Israeli farmland to a non-Jew to avoid the prohibition of working the land in Israel during the shmita year.
In notices published in the haredi newspapers and posters hung on walls across the sector's neighborhood, the rabbis call on farmers, and the general public, not to take part in this practice.
The rabbis claim that the "heter mechira" leads to the desecration of the "holy and precious" mitzvah of shmita.
The debate surrounding the "heter mechira" has been going on for over a 100 years. The "heter" is a halachic solution to the shmita, and enables farmers to symbolically sell their land to non-Jews for the Sabbatical year, without stopping to cultivate the land.
This practice originated in the dire financial problems farmers had experienced during the end of the 19th century, when the first Jewish agricultural communities were founded. The "heter mechira" has since then been renewed once and again in each shmita year, and most farming communities in Israel rely on it.
However, most haredim do not accept the "heter" and prefer to buy produce from Arab farmers or from abroad during the shmita year.