How Ḥasidic Jews Have Kept Calabrian Citron Farmers in Business

Aug. 10 2017

Since their movement’s founding in the late 18th century, Chabad-Lubavitch Ḥasidim have insisted that citrons—used ritually during the fall holiday of Sukkot—from the Italian region of Calabria are superior to all others. The first Lubavitcher rebbe even claimed that this area, located in the toe of Italy’s boot, was divinely ordained by God in Moses’ day for the production of these fruit, known in Hebrew at etrogim. But an unusual four-day frost in January severely damaged this year’s crop, and threatens the end of this tradition, as Dovid Margolin writes:

Partially damaged trees have been trimmed down to their stumps, while other trees have been destroyed completely and must be replaced. It takes about three years for a newly-planted citron root branch to grow into a tree and yield its first etrogim. Merchants and kosher supervisors say that consequently, this year a far smaller number of Calabria citrons will be available for Sukkot, . . . and even those harvested will be of a poorer quality.

Among the hardest-hit are local farmers, including families who have been growing the . . . fruits for generations. “Many of the farmers live solely on the citron. There are whole families who work on [its] production,” says Luigi Salsini, editor of the Italian-language CalNews and a longtime observer of the citron industry, which plays an important historic and economic role in Calabria. “Citrons harvested for Sukkot are the primary [source of] income for many families.” . . .

Until World War II, the vast amounts of Calabria etrogim were shipped throughout Europe via merchants in [the port city of] Genoa. . . . The market became far more lucrative for the farmers [after World War II] when Jewish merchants began paying per Etrog [rather than per kilogram]. Over the years, small farms have mostly disappeared, making way for larger industrial operations of a few hundred trees [each].


More about: Chabad, Hasidism, Italy, Religion & Holidays, Sukkot

The Palestinian National Movement Has Reached a Point of Crisis

With Hamas having failed to achieve anything through several weeks of demonstrations and violence, and Mahmoud Abbas reduced to giving rambling anti-Semitic speeches, Palestinian aspirations seem to have hit a brick wall. Elliott Abrams explains:

[Neither] Fatah [nor] Hamas offers Palestinians a practical program for national independence. . . . [The current situation] leaves Palestinians high and dry, with no way forward at all. Whatever the criticism of the “occupation,” Israelis will certainly not abandon the West Bank to chaos or to a possible Hamas takeover. Today the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is simply too dangerous to Israel and to Jordan to be contemplated. . . . There are only two other options. The first is the “one-state solution,” meaning union with Israel; but that is a nonstarter that Israel will reject no matter who is its prime minister. The other option is some kind of eventual link to Jordan.

In polite diplomatic society, and in Palestinian public discourse, such a link cannot be mentioned. But younger people who visit there, Palestinians have explained to me, can see a society that is half-Palestinian and functions as an independent nation with a working system of law and order. Jordanians travel freely, rarely suffer from terrorism, and [can vote in regular] elections, even if power is ultimately concentrated in the royal palace. The kingdom has close relations with all the Sunni states and the West, and is at peace with Israel.

The fundamental question all this raises is what, in 2018, is the nature and objective of Palestinian nationalism. Is the goal sovereignty at all costs, no matter how long it takes and even if it is increasingly divorced from peace, prosperity, and personal freedom? Is “steadfastness” [in refusing to compromise with Israel] the greatest Palestinian virtue now and forever? These questions cannot be debated in either Gaza or the West Bank. But as Israel celebrates 70 years and the “occupation” is now more than a half-century old, how much longer can they be delayed? . . .

The catastrophic mishandling of Palestinian affairs by generations of leaders from Haj Amin al-Husseini (the pro-Nazi mufti of the British Mandate period) to Yasir Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas has been the true Palestinian Nakba.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinians