The settlements along the Gaza coast did not only grow bug-
free vegetables, as some people might have imagined. Many
hothouses raised cherry tomatoes and other "finicky"
vegetables. Others grew flowers and potted flowers sold
primarily in Europe.
Sixty percent of geranium exports were grown in Gush Katif
hothouses. One geranium grower told reporters that his
hothouses alone held a million potted plants. To transport
the plants required 100 semitrailers.
These farmers were open to suggestions. One idea they adopted
was growing organic vegetables, which are in large demand in
Israel. Hardcore organic consumers are willing to pay large
amounts for every green pepper and eggplant grown without
chemicals and sprays, like in bygone days. Until now 65
percent of all organic vegetables produced in Israel came
from Gush Katif.
The spices market was also a thriving enterprise. Mint,
coriander, basil, rosemary and other spices were commonly
grown in hothouses and exported. The leading product was
asphodel, a type of lily resembling a long, delicate green
onion, and no self-respecting chef would serve soup without
sprinkling a bit of chopped asphodel on top. Again, 60
percent of asphodel exports came from Gush Katif.
But the biggest success was bug-free vegetables, an exclusive
Gush Katif invention based on tightly sealed hothouses,
special nets and light use of chemical insecticides. As is
widely known, this invention transformed kosher kitchens
despite the high prices.
The most dramatic story was lettuce. How much effort used to
go into checking lettuce on Erev Pesach! Fears of all the
tiny, nearly invisible insects prevented the religious public
from eating lettuce the rest of the year. The same is true of
cauliflower, which many families became acquainted with only
in the past few years.
At present there are four companies growing bug-free
vegetables with high standards of kashrus supervision and
special laboratories. Their products have a chazokoh of
being free of small insects, but must be thoroughly rinsed
before use because of the possibility of large flies. Every
slight change in the kashrus directives, even on a single
occasion, could lead to a lack of faith and the rescinding of
the hechsher. Ninety percent of the clean leaves sold
in Israel today come from the sands of Gush Katif and they
also comprise a large portion of exports to chareidi areas
There are also leaf-eaters in Gush Katif: the well-cared for
cows in the Gush Katif dairies. Poultry is raised there as
well. Gush Katif residents also made their living in the
fields of light industry, commerce and education.
What will happen to the vegetable market in the near future?
Nobody has any precise, authoritative information on this
question. Much of the information from the Disengagement
Authority and other official sources is really
The general picture that emerges is a range of possible
solutions. Some farmers left their hothouses behind and have
been promised compensation for them from the American Aspen
Institute that is buying them for the Palestinians. This
would make it a bit easier for these farmers to get a new
start. Others destroyed their hothouses, wanting to leave
nothing behind for the enemy. Still others dismantled them
quickly and had them transported or will have them
transported to alternative farmlands already set aside for
In any case a shortage of coriander and mint and all the rest
can be expected. It will also damage export reliability.
Foreign importers and buyers who place orders a year or two
in advance and base calculations on them are liable to sever
ties with farmers due to the failure to deliver in a regular,
According to a report in Ha'aretz, the Director-General
of the Agricultural Ministry says the situation is not so
grim. Half of the 1,100 acres needed for the hothouses has
already been purchased and the Israel Lands Authority has
turned over another 100 acres of agricultural land to the
transplanted settlers. The cost of rebuilding the hothouses
has been estimated at $4,500 per acre and the total could
reach $80 million. The funds for land purchase will be
provided by the compensation payments the evacuees will
receive and most of the cost of setting up the hothouses will
be covered by the State, i.e. taxpayers.
The Ministry of Agriculture is also trying to allay
consumers' concerns saying that thriving agricultural areas
will soon replace the Gaza coast. Among the more outstanding
possibilities are the Jordan River Valley and the Western
One of the biggest concerns is the trauma the cows will
undergo. Every emotional disturbance is liable to harm milk
production. A dairy has already been set up in Be'er Tuvia
which will take in the cows, but these resettled bovines may
be unable to cope with the ordeal of uprooting. The chickens
seem less troubled. They are in favor of disengagement.