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 Threats Posed to Israel by a Palestinian State

Oct. 23 2017

To the IDF reserve general Gershon Hacohen, the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank would, given the current circumstances of the Middle East, create a graver danger for the Jewish state than either Iran or Hizballah. More damaging still, he argues, is the attitude among many Israelis that the two-state solution is a necessity for Israel. He writes:

Since the Oslo process began in the fall of 1993, dramatic changes have occurred in the international arena. . . . For then-Prime Minister Yitzḥak Rabin, Oslo was based on the superpower status of the U.S. . . . At the time, the Arabs were in a state of crisis and aware of their weakness—all the more so after the U.S. vanquished Iraq in the First Gulf War in the winter of 1991. . . . It was that awareness of weakness, along with the PLO leadership’s state of strategic inadequacy, that paved the way for the Oslo process.

[But] over the [intervening] years, the America’s hegemonic power has declined while Russia has returned to play an active and very influential role. . . .

Something essential has changed, too, with regard to expectations in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere. At first, in the early days of Oslo, the expectations were of mutual goodwill and reconciliation. Over the years, however, as the cycle of blood has continued, the belief in Palestinian acceptance of Israel in return for Israeli concessions has been transformed in the Israeli discourse into nothing more than the need to separate from the Palestinians—“They’re there, we’re here”—solely on our own behalf.

The more the proponents of separation have honed their efforts to explain to Israeli society that separation is mandated by reality, enabling Israel to preserve its identity as Jewish and democratic, the more the Palestinians’ bargaining power has grown. If a withdrawal from the West Bank and the establishment of a Palestinian state is a clear-cut Israeli interest, if the Israelis must retreat in any case for the sake of their own future, why should the Palestinians give something in return? . . . Hence the risk is increasing that a withdrawal from the West Bank will not only fail to end the conflict but will in fact lead to its intensification.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Oslo Accords, Russia, Two-State Solution