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Israel Lends a Helping Hand to Small Farmers Affected by the War

June 18, 2024

by: Janet Aslin

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Fresh Israeli radishes

Tuesday, 18 June 2024 | When the Jewish people began returning to the Land of Israel in the late 1880s, they found a desolate countryside that had been badly neglected under the Ottoman Turkish Empire. There was little evidence that their return would result in the thriving agricultural areas we see today. Hard work, ingenuity and the blessing of the Lord began to fulfill these words written by the prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago: “the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose” (Isa. 35:1).

Then tragedy struck on October 7, 2023. When the Hamas terrorists flooded over the border, they left behind them not only the horror of death and kidnapping but also devastation and destruction of fields and farming equipment. The economic base for many of the small kibbutzim (collective communities) along the Gaza border is agriculture. Israel’s southern region provides much of the produce enjoyed by the rest of the nation. Cherry tomatoes, found in grocery stores the world over, were originally developed in the Negev region. There are fish farms, olive groves and a diversity of vegetables grown.

The northern agricultural area of Israel has also been affected by the conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Fields in close proximity to the border can come under fire and are therefore dangerous from a security standpoint. Wildfires caused by shrapnel from Hezbollah missiles and drones are also causing much damage.

In a recent article for CTech, Israeli journalist Shani Ashkenazi wrote, “The farmers of the Gaza Envelope and northern communities were supposed to celebrate this week during the Shavuot harvest festivities in agricultural settlements. However, this Shavuot finds Israeli agriculture in the greatest crisis in its history. Many fields in the north have been abandoned due to the severe security situation, last week’s massive fires in the north caused significant damage to orchards and vineyards, many foreign workers have left the country and are afraid to return. When the war ends, the recovery period will begin, but the damage to agriculture is expected to affect the crops for years to come.”

Two non-profit organizations have stepped in to help farmers financially. Ogen, a non-profit social lending organization, has partnered with Leket, the national food bank, to help with immediate cash needs of Israelis operating small farms. Called the “Farmers’ Immediate Relief Track,” it provides a 3% fixed interest rate loan of up to NIS 300,000 (US $80,500) to qualifying applicants. The loans have a five-year term and includes mentorship from industry experts.

The second program that Ogen provides targets those who need to make sizeable capital investments. The “Long-Term Agricultural Relief Track” “offers prime-rated loans of up to NIS 1 million ($268,500) over a decade,” according to the Times of Israel.

Although the war continues, there have also been hopeful signs as far as the foreign labor force. After October 7, Thailand banned its citizens from coming to work in Israel. However, in late May, Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture published an article stating that Thailand has reversed that decision and workers are starting to return, including some of those who fled after the October 7 massacre.

While hi-tech careers may be flashier, there is something solid and satisfying about having dirt under your fingernails and bringing forth food from the land. The battlefields of Gaza and northern Israel are not just those where there are tanks and guns. The fields and greenhouses of Israel are also on the front lines. Thankfully, there are organizations in Israel like Ogen and Leket which are reaching out in assistance during these critical times.

Posted on June 18, 2024

Source: (Bridges for Peace, June 18, 2024)

Photo Credit: udi Steinwell/

Photo License: Wikimedia