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

Why Cutting U.S. Funding for Palestinian “Refugees” Is the Right Move

Jan. 22 2018

Last week the Trump administration announced that it is withholding some of America’s annual contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the organization tasked with providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees and their descendants. To explain why this decision was correct, Elliott Abrams compares UNRWA with the agency run by the UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), which provides humanitarian aid to refugees who are not Palestinian:

One of [UNHCR’s] core missions is “ending statelessness.” [By contrast, UNRWA’s] mission appears to be “never ending statelessness.” A phrase such as “ending statelessness” would be anathema and is found nowhere on its website. Since 1950, UNHCR has tried to place refugees in permanent new situations, while since 1950 UNRWA has with its staff of 30,000 “helped” over 5 million Palestinian “refugees” to remain “refugees.” . . . UNRWA has three times as large a staff as UNHCR—but helps far fewer people than the 17 million refugees UNHCR tries to assist. . . .

The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA is not primarily financial. The United States is an enormously generous donor to UNHCR, providing just under 40 percent of its budget. I hope we maintain that level of funding. . . . The argument for cutting funding to UNRWA instead rests on two pillars. The first is that UNRWA’s activities repeatedly give rise to concern that it has too many connections to Hamas and to rejectionist ideology. . . .

But even if those flaws were corrected, this would not solve the second and more fundamental problem with UNRWA—which is that it will perpetuate the Palestinian “refugee” problem forever rather than helping to solve it. . . . [T]hat the sole group of refugees whom the UN keeps enlarging is Palestinian, and that the only way to remedy this under UN definitions would be to eliminate the state of Israel or have 5 million Palestinian “refugees” move there should simply be unacceptable. . . .

Perpetuating and enlarging the Palestinian “refugee” crisis has harmed Israel and it has certainly harmed Palestinians. Keeping their grievances alive may have served anti-Israel political ends, but it has brought peace no closer and it has helped prevent generations of Palestinians from leading normal lives. That archipelago of displaced-persons and refugee camps that once dotted Europe [in the aftermath of World War II] is long gone now, and the descendants of those who tragically lived in those camps now lead productive and fruitful lives in many countries. One can only wish such a fate for Palestinian refugee camps and for Palestinians. More money for UNRWA won’t solve anything.

Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinians, Refugees, U.S. Foreign policy, UNRWA