Nov 29, 2021

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The IDF announced on Tuesday that it was opening up the border fence separating Israel from Lebanon to allow Lebanese farmers to harvest olives from trees that are in Israeli territory.

“In light of the economic situation in Lebanon, and as a gesture of goodwill to the Lebanese people, the IDF opened the border to agricultural workers from Al Jabal, Itaron and Balida,” the IDF statement read.

“The IDF allowed the workers to cross the Blue Line, to a certain extent, allowing them to harvest olive trees in Israeli territory. This gesture was reported to the Lebanese side by UNIFIL.”

Rabbi Shaul Judelman, former director of the Ecology Beit Midrash, a religious study group focused on the environment as it is treated in classical Jewish sources, emphasized that charity was an integral part of agriculture in Israel. He referred to the Biblical Mitzvoth (commandments) of leket, shichhah, and peah that require farmers to leave fruit and grain in the field for the poor.

Remember that you were a slave in Egypt and that Hashem your God redeemed you from there; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment. When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow—in order that Hashem your God may bless you in all your undertakings. Deuteronomy 24:18-19

“By letting the Lebanese farmers, who are so hard-pressed, into Israel to harvest from the olive trees, they were carrying out the verse which specifically mentions olive trees,” Rabbi Judelman said.

When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Deuteronomy 24:20

The Israel Bible explains that this verse hints at the blessed bounty of the land of Israel:

Just as grain must be left in the fields for the poor during the time of the harvest, so too fruit must be left on the trees. In describing the process of removing the fruit from the olive tree, the verse says “when you beat down the fruit of your olive trees.” In ancient times, olive trees were harvested by beating the branches with a stick, causing the olives to fall to the ground. According to Jewish tradition, this command hints to the blessing of abundance in the Land of Israel. There will be so much produce that the farmers will only need to harvest what falls off with the beating of the tree branches; they will not even need to bother climbing a ladder to reach the fruit at the top of the tree.

“This mitzvah is usually associated with the Book of Ruth,” Rabbi Judelman commented. “Boaz ordered his workers to leave grain for Ruth, a Moabite, an enemy nation. Here too, the bounty of Israel is being shared with a nation that has a difficult history with Israel.”

It should be noted that the union between Boaz and Ruth the Moabite which began with this mitzvah culminated with the Davidic Dynasty and the construction of Solomon’s Temple on the site of the threshing floor on Mount Moriah. 

“This is also the manifestation of the verse in Deuteronomy which promises that Israel will give to other nations,” Rabbi Judelman noted.

For Hashem your God will bless you as He has promised you: you will extend loans to many nations, but require none yourself; you will dominate many nations, but they will not dominate you. Deuteronomy 15:6

It should be noted that on Saturday, the IDF and Israeli security forces stopped smugglers from Lebanon attempting to cross into Israel. Approximately NIS 350,000 worth of contraband was seized which included two guns and nine kilograms of hashish. 

Lebanon is currently suffering from an extreme economic crisis that has led to country-wide electrical blackouts as well as food shortages.