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Israel Signs Deal with Jordan for Agricultural Imports during Sabbatical Year

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As of September 6th, 2021, Israel entered the year 5782 of the Jewish calendar, and that time corresponds to a sabbatical year for agriculture, according to Jewish tradition. This custom inherited from the Jewish religion has its origin in the book of Exodus, where it is written, “For six years you are to sow your land and to gather in its produce, but in the seventh, you are to let it go [tishm’tenah] and to let it be [u’nitashta], that the needy of your people may eat, and what remains, the wildlife of the field shall eat. Do thus with your vineyard, with your olive grove”. For every seven years, Israeli farmers let the land rest for consecutive 12 months, by tradition, to allow nature to renew itself.

The Consequences and Israel’s Solutions

Many of Israel’s Jewish farmers follow the tradition, resulting in a sharp decline in the country’s production. They resort to various techniques to maintain local market supplies, including increasing the amount of goods before the sabbatical year to prevent an insufficient reserve. However, this solution doesn’t have a significant effect since agricultural products have a limited lifespan.

To assist the agricultural sector, the Israeli government decided to import agricultural items from neighboring countries that are long-time economic and commercial partners, notably Jordan and the Gaza Strip. In this context, the Israeli and Jordanian trade ministers signed an agreement in August 2021, giving Jordan an export priority to Israel for agricultural products. This move is nothing new because the two countries had already concluded a similar deal in 2007.

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The new agreement confirms the improvement in trade and economic relations between them, which had been slightly intense in recent years. It follows on a previous settlement in July 2021, in which Israel allowed increasing Jordan’s export potential to the West Bank from about $160 million a year up to $700 million annually. Moreover, Israel agreed to sell an additional 50 million cubic meters of water to the African country in 2021.

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