Where do we stand today?

published on: 02-04-2014

Launch Events

 

In the past several months, after a lot of hard work, two major conferences marked the launch of the Israeli Shmita Initiative through two significant conferences:

 “The First Israeli Shmita” Conference – Over 50 social, environmental, and Jewish identity organizations and businesses committed to promote the Shmita year as one of environmental responsibility, social engagement, and personal reflection.  

Lobby for Jewish Renewal Conference in the Knesset – the Ministries of Education, Environment, and Welfare committed to promote Shmita ideas in collaboration with Israeli non-profits.  The Knesset session was led by MK Ruth Calderon, a member of Yesh Atid and the head of the Lobby for Jewish Renewal, together with MK Yitzchak Herzog.  

 

  •   Listen to what Shmita means to these conference participants here.
  •    View MK Ruth Calderon’s address to the Knesset here.
  •      Join the Chief Rabbi of Israel and other supporters in signing the online Israeli Shmita Declaration.  The English version can be viewed here.

 

Publicity Campaign – Einat Kramer and former MK Rabbi Michael Melchior, coordinators of the Israeli Shmita Initiative, feature in this entertaining video clip designed to introduce the general public to the concept of Shmita.

 

Government Ministries on Board 

 

The Ministry of the Environment is working to restore attachment to nature, through projects such as a proposed plan to allow free admission to nature reserves during the Shmita year.  The Ministry is also considering a moratorium on open sea fishing in the Mediterranean, which will allow fish stocks to regenerate while compensating fisherman for their monetary loss during the regeneration period. 

The Ministry of Education, in partnership with Jewish renewal groups, is working to implement the ethical principles of Shmita year in both the formal and informal education systems.  

The Ministry of Welfare, together with financial rehabilitation organizations and banks, is working on a debt relief and financial recovery program for the nation’s poorest citizens. 

 

Work Teams – Coming together for Collaborative Thought and Action

 

After the launch events, we established work teams to spearhead Shmita projects in all areas of life in Israel.  The list below reflects some of the work team activities:

Education

 

Tevel B’Tzedek, Ma’aglei Tzedek, Midreshet, Torah V’Avodah, and Teva Ivri collaborated to create a series of workshops for high schools that links Jewish values and social-environmental activism. 

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Rimon, director of the Halacha Education Center, is creating of an educational center focusing on Shmita values in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens.  The Center invites students in both religious and secular frameworks to a transformative “Journey to the Land of Shmita.”  

Elementary school educators are working to integrate Shmita into a new national Citizenship initiative, which addresses various issues in Israeli civil society from a Jewish angle. 

Jewish Renewal organizations are collaborating on the creation of Shmita materials to be integrated into the leadership programs in the field of Israeli Culture and Heritage.

The Israeli Shmita Initiative, the State Religious Education movement, and the Ministry of Education are planning a national educational conference on the topic of Shmita, during which many of the above-mentioned initiatives will be introduced.  The conference, targeting teachers, rabbis, administrators, and other educators, will take place the day after Shavuot (May 6).  

The Shmita in Academia group, comprised of academics, deans of universities, and corporate responsibility experts, is exploring ways to integrate Shmita values in academic institutions.  Topics for discussion have included the accessibility of higher education for students on the periphery of Israeli society, global release of patents and research, and other means of equalizing the educational system.

A Shmita study page has been developed in partnership with Kolot and Teva Ivri.  View it here, on the Midreshet website.

 

Agriculture and Environment

 

Directors of agricultural farms throughout Israel have developed a Shmita work team to develop projects that focus on sustainability, community, and new educational programs that will attract wider audiences during the Shmita year.

 

The Shabbat Ha’aretz work team is promoting cultural and spiritual events in urban community gardens, workshops about composting Shmita produce, and activities designed to help the public to view natural resources as treasures, not expendable commodities.