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I often go to the Arab Market in Jerusalem's Old City to buy nuts and fruit because the quality is good and it's the cheapest I've found. I haven't seen a halakhic issue with their roasted nuts since I don't think we'd serve it to a king, and it's a food that's often eaten raw. But someone raised the point that Shmitah might be an issue if it's grown in Israel. But I'm ignorant of the halakhah on this.

So do the crops of Arab farmers need to abide by shmitah?

  • Isn't that what Heter Mekhira is all about? – Double AA Aug 22 '17 at 16:55
  • @DoubleAA I'm assuming these farmers aren't on the Jewish side of Israel. Though I can't be sure. – Aaron Aug 22 '17 at 16:56
  • Aaron, I recommend removing the example, which was superfluous to begin with, and then editing out the then irrelevant parts of the answer. (i suspect you only included it just to be controversial and make a point, and you've gotten what you wanted and/or what you deserved... now help clean up this thread by removing it) – Double AA Aug 22 '17 at 17:54
  • @DoubleAA I wasn't trying to be controversial. I'm living in Israel on a very strict budget and honestly the cheapest food I've found has been from the Arab markets. And I don't mean an Arab owned Israeli market, I mean Old City Damascus gate markets. This applies to more than just nuts. It applies to fresh fruits, rice, lentils, etc. I can include these other things as examples since some of them are never cooked to begin with if it will make it "less controversial" for you. – Aaron Aug 23 '17 at 6:11
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I assume you checked with the seller that the fruits being sold do belong to a non-Jew (i.e., they are not just reselling Jewish produce) - see towards the end as this is not obvious. And of course you know this only applies during a shmita year

My reference book on shmita issues is R Yosef Tzvi Rimon's Shemita (full intro available here). Also exists in Hebrew.

He explains the point 3 from user15503's answer in great detail (pp. 144-149 and 372-376). In a nutshell

  • There is a dispute whether shemita produce becomes ownerless through an active declaration of its owner or automatically ("a dispensation of the King") - the Bet Yosef argues for the first, the Mabit for the second
  • According to the Bet Yosef, if a gentile doesn't declare his produce ownerless, it is not ownerless and the produce is subject to terumot and maasrot. This view is accepted bt the Pe'at ha-Shulchan, R Kook, R Shmuel Zalman Auerbach, R Pesach Frank, R Ovadia Yosef
  • According to the Mabit, produce growing during a shmita year is automatically ownerless and thus even the produce of a gentile is ownerless and therefore exempt from terumot and maasrot

R Rimon writes that the accepted practice in Israel is that the produce of a gentile does not have shemita sanctity in accordance with the Bet Yosef, but in Bnei Brak many follow the view of the Chazon Ish who rules according to the Mabit.

However R Rimon has the following to say on buying fruits and vegetables from gentiles during shmita years, in practice

Despite all the above discussion, buying gentile produce is still not a simple matter. Sometimes, and especially during the shemita year, Jewish farmers sell their produce to Arabs in order to market it. Due to security concerns, even careful supervision cannot always trace the course of the produce, and it is often difficult to determine if it was really grown by a gentile or sold to him by a Jewish farmer.

Moreover, significant areas of land in Eretz Yisrael do not actually belong to the gentiles working them, but rather the lands have been illegally taken over by these gentiles from Jews. In such cases, the land is not regarded as the land of a gentile, and the vegetables growing there are subject to the prohibition of sefichin (Responsa Maharam ben Baruch, no. 536; Torat ha-Aretz, vol. II, section 3).

The most serious problem with buying gentile produce, however, lies in the fact that it strengthens the gentile hold on the land in Eretz Yisrael. Even if from a strict halachic perspective this does not fall under the prohibition of lo techonem, not granting gentiles a portion in the land (an assumption which is not at all clear), the fundamental problem underlying this prohibition certainly exists. [...] Without a doubt, buying produce from gentiles undermines the idea behind the prohibition of lo techonem.

Finally you should note that R Rimon writes at length (p. 499ff) that one should make an effort to buy from Jews whenever possible and when the price difference is not too significant

On the other hand, giving preference to imported produce is liable to cause Israeli farmers heavy economic losses, bring about the collapse of many branches of agriculture, and lead to serious set-backs in the process of raising the standards of shemita observance. The larger the community interested in purchasing shemita produce the easier it will be to employ the superior methods of dealing with the halachic difficulties posed by shemita, such as Otzar Bet Din or hothouses and container produce, or to improve the heter mechira so that it will be executed in the most halachically preferred manner. [...]

The Tosafot's fundamental approach is clear: there is no obligation to buy from a Jew over a gentile when doing so would cause a financial loss. According to the Tosafot in Bava Kama (114a), this applies to any loss, no matter how small, whereas according to the Tosafot in Avoda Zara (20a) , it seems that in the case of a small loss, preference must indeed be given to buying from a Jew.

Finally, you didn't ask re

  • kashrut: you need to be extra careful with insects since the produce won't have been checked
  • trumot and maasrot: you should ask a rav since you might need to take them without a blessing.
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Produce grown on arab land by arabs during shmittah is a machlokes. But, the situation you described is problematic for shmittah, kashrus, and terumas/meisers. I describe the details of shmittah status and your specific situation in detail below.

Produce during shmittah falls into the following categories:

  1. Produce from outside of israel. This produce has no shmittah requirements.
  2. Produce from israel grown on jewish owned land. This produce must be treated according to all shmittah requirements according to all opinions.
  3. Produce from israel grown on non-jewish land. Minhag y'rushalayim is to treat this as regular produce. Minhag bnei brak is to treat this as full-fledged shmittah produce.
  4. Produce from israel grown on land that was sold to non-jews for the shmittah year (aka heter mechira). This is a very problematic heter. For one, it is ossur to sell land in israel to non-jews, and two, it is likely that the sale is really a farce (if the arab doesn't want to sell back the land, what do you think the kibbutznik would do?! If the same arab decided they would not sell back someone's whiskey after pesach, the jew would simply request payment.)

If you don't have a reliable shmittah hechsher, you cant know where everything came from and if the laws of shmittah were observed.

Regarding your specific situation:

  1. Kashrus: The heter of eating cooked food that you would not serve to a king is only a heter in the cooking of the food. You still have no idea what kind of ingredients they put into it. We live in a generation where even simple foods have a staggeringly high number of strange ingredients. That is why you usually need a reliable hechsher.
  2. Shmittah: You have no idea where the nuts actually came from. That is why you need a reliable shmittah hechsher when relevant.
  3. Terumahs/meisers: Unlike produce outside of israel, all produce grown in israel is subject to terumahs and meisers every year. In order to be sure that these were taken properly, you always need a hechsher for produce in israel.

In my humble opinion, I would not suggest purchasing your treat from the arab shuk.

  • "You still have no idea" Actually, it's YOU who has no idea. The OP has gone there and seen. Moreover, we have rules of Rov, Bittul, etc. which do give us legally acceptable ideas of what the food is. Not every doubt is legally unresolvable. – Double AA Aug 22 '17 at 17:46
  • 1. You should source your first four claims. – Shmuel Brin Aug 22 '17 at 17:47
  • "all produce grown in israel is subject to terumahs and meisers every year." This is completely false. – Double AA Aug 22 '17 at 17:47
  • How is 4 different from a Safek 2 / Safek 3? – Double AA Aug 22 '17 at 17:47
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    1. It is completely reasonable to assume that someone buying something from a vendor has no idea where it was grown or how it was processed. 2. I should absolutely source my claims and that makes me answer less complete. 3. It seems reasonable to me that some produce grown in israel is not subject to terumahs/meisers, so at best, my answer is partially false. – user15503 Aug 22 '17 at 18:04

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