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March 22, 2020 9:32 am

Ensuring Food Security in Israel During Coronavirus

avatar by Yoel Zilberman

Opinion

Israeli Health Ministry inspectors put on protective gear before they go up to the apartment of a person in self-quarantine as a precaution against coronavirus spread in Hadera, March 16, 2020. Photo: Reuters / Ronen Zvulun.

The entire world is in crisis, and Israel has not been spared. In addition to the economic and social cost of the coronavirus pandemic, we are facing the crucial challenge of providing food security here in Israel.

Currently, Israel has a severe shortage of manpower in the farming industry. This shortage is a result of an entrance ban placed on foreign workers, as well as the closure of the Palestinian territories during the past week. As a result, half a billion fruits and vegetables could be left to decay over the next four weeks.

These developments reflect the importance of Israeli agriculture in ensuring food supplies in Israel. This is a double blow to the country. On the one hand, food is not being allowed in, and on the other hand, farmers cannot harvest their vegetables and fruits.

We must be prepared for a food crisis. This is our opportunity to help Israeli farmers so they, in turn, can continue to feed all the citizens of the country. And organizations and groups like HaShomer HaChadash are helping lead the way.

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For example, we have developed a national course of action to prevent a country-wide food crisis. Our goal is to mobilize our thousands of volunteers to pick the fruits and vegetables that will feed the people of Israel for the next few months, helping both Israeli farmers and the entire population during this difficult time.

In the last two weeks, groups like ours have taken several critical steps to prevent a food crisis. A call center for farmers was established, which offers assistance to farmers facing a shortage of workers, by providing paid laborers and volunteers. A new Center for Volunteer Recruitment is proactively recruiting tens of thousands of volunteers through public schools, youth groups, educational programs, mechinot, and more, to volunteer in groups, based on geographic area and farm location.

We are leading a public opinion campaign to raise awareness about the importance of local production and agriculture. And a placement center has been set up to recruit paid professional agricultural workers according to farm needs.

Working out in the fields, in nature, helps strengthen us. We invite everyone to join us by volunteering on nearby farms. This is an opportunity to support Israeli agriculture and to remind ourselves how rewarding it is to experience the fields, hard work, and togetherness, all while helping someone else. I wish a similar model would also be possible in other parts of the world to prevent a huge loss of food.

Yoel Zilberman is the CEO and Founder of HaShomer HaChadash, an Israeli NPO that secures the connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel through education and activism by helping local farmers to safeguard the land.

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