Strawberries sold in Israel are infested with tiny insects that cannot be removed with water or pesticide, and are therefore forbidden according to halacha, The Torah and Land Institute has announced after a series of laboratory tests.
Rabbi Yehuda Amichai, who heads the institute, told Ynet that "it used to be enough to take the green leaves off of the strawberry and wash it with soap, but today the bugs stick to the dots on the fruit, and emerge even after a good washing".
He said strawberries that had been sprayed with pesticide were not safe either. "In the end they also have insects that won't come off, even if there are less," he said.
Chief Rabbi of Safed Shmuel Eliyahu ruled on the issue after consulting with a number of experts. "This is another derivative of the Shmita year," he told Ynet, referring to the fact that on every seventh year, farming is forbidden to Jews, resulting in the growing of strawberries in the Palestinian territories.
"In the Arab sector the fields are watered with waste water and as a result there has been an overflow of insects. Then the strawberries grown by Jews in Israel were also contaminated," he said.
The solution, according to Amichai, is to either peel the skin from the fruit or to puree it in the blender. Although the puree will still have parts of insects, he explains, the halacha does not forbid their digestion.
But scientists and agriculturists are already working on a solution to the crisis, which includes the washing of strawberries in a large, Jacuzzi-like vat that eliminates the insects entirely. Rabbi Amichai said he hoped the method, still in preliminary stages of development, would work out.