(Garnel Ironheart is a the mythical hero from "The Unending War Trilogy" [see http://www.garnelironheart.com/] and the pseudonym for a new addition to those posting on the Nishma Blog.)
Rosh HaShanah 5768 is the start of another Shmittah year in Eretz Yisrael with all the regulations and restrictions that implies. Every seven years the Yishuv prepares for this holy time by engaging in the traditional Jewish practice of --- in-fighting.
In the case of the Shmittah year, it's surrounds the question of whether to observe the Heter Mechirah, a process in which Jewish-owned land in Israel is sold to a non-Jew (something like Mechiras Chometz on Pesach) thereby permitting Jews to work the land during the year OR whether to reject this understanding of the halacha and follow the traditional restrictions of the halachah on agricultural work in all its fullness.Naturally, disputes like this bring out the worst in us. Every seven years, two sides form. On one side are those who strictly oppose the use of the Heter Mechirah but also represent, basically, a community that is far removed from the world of agriculture. On the other are people who actually farm for a living and their supporters who feel that not relying on the Heter would result in financial hardships they would not be able to overcome.
This Shmittah year has been no exception. In recent days, the Israeli newspapers have been carrying stories of the conflict between the two sides. First was the announcement (http://www.blogger.com/) that the anti-Heter leadership, through its proxies in the national and regional branches of the Rabbinate, have forbidden any of their rabbonim from giving a kashrut certificate to an institution or business that uses Heter Mechirah produce. Then the other side decided to use the national court system and even the Attorney General stepped into the fray [Link to Jerusalem Post Article] . It's a safe bet that neither side invited the other over for dinner on Shabbos Shuvah.
Now, I'll admit my bias up front - I personally am not convinced by the arguments for the Heter Mechirah's validity and therefore, personally, don't recognize it. On the other hand, I'm not an Israeli business or farmer who faces bankruptcy in the coming year if I can't rely on it. Of course, such a concern cannot affect a psak but it can affect or motivations and sensitivities in regard to a psak.
However, I have determined that there is a perfect compromise to be made. Mostly this problem between the two sides revolves around money. The farmers and business stand to lose a lot of gelt if the Heter Mechirah is banned. I happen to know where there's a lot of money to be had.Here's my suggestion. Every year Israel spends tens of millions of shekels (if not more) paying able-bodied individuals to sit around and read books all day. The response to this government initiative has been less than grateful. In fact, I'm not aware of any of these individuals showing any heker panim at all. So I would suggest to the Israeli government: Take every last shekel in the budget meant for this sector and hand it out to the people who stand to lose everything from the banning of the Heter Mechirah. That's right, now the farmer can afford to take the year off, maybe also read a couple of books (isn't one of the reasons for Shemittah to allow time to learn?). And the restauranteur? Why, he can use the "grant money" to pay for imported fruits and vegetables. But what about those who are now not going to get any money? I'm not worried about them. After all, they're the ones who always say "God will provide." Isn't that there argument in regard to the Heter Shmittah, as well?