Let Us Eat Lettuce
This week's NY Jewish Week has an article up about the dismantling of the Gush Katif greenhouses and what that may entail for the bug-free produce industry for which they are so well-known.
The Gush’s insect-free produce has become a staple for Orthodox Jews fearful of ingesting infested — and thus unkosher — fruits and vegetables. In the days before Gush Katif lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, celery, coriander, dill and other leafy vegetables were available, religiously observant individuals and food-industry professionals had to painstakingly soak, examine and rinse every leaf and floret.In addition to the very real problem of a possible shortage of this type of produce, the article mentions the lack of planning for the relocation of the greenhouses after the disengagement.
The time-consuming process prompted some Orthodox Jews to avoid these vegetables entirely and made catering for the religious community a major challenge. When Gush farmers, and a handful outside Gaza, began cultivating bug-free produce, in some cases organically grown, in the local sand (mixed with fertilizers and irrigated), they created a small niche market with great growth potential.
In Israel, Gush produce is available in every supermarket and used by virtually every kosher restaurant and caterer in the country. A Ministry of Agriculture spokeswoman estimated that Gush produce earns $15 million of the $900 million from Israeli fruit and vegetable exports every year.
Furthermore, Ben Ephraim said, “anyone who does relocate must buy new equipment and new greenhouses because these things are old and can’t be reconstructed. It would be cheaper in the long run to build a new greenhouse from the beginning.”The article isn't clear about how the Israeli government has planned for the relocation and reestablishment of the greenhouses. It certainly must be devastating for those who worked so hard to build up this pioneering industry to have to dismantle something that was both so groundbreaking and so successful.
Anita Tucker, another farmer from Netzer Hazani, likened the greenhouses to an old closet.
“When you take apart an old closet it falls apart,” she said. “You can’t just put it back together as if nothing has happened.”