srael’s farmers protect nation’s food supply, patrol its borders and preserve its pioneering spirit. Veterans of the religious kibbutz and moshav movements and IDF service, they farm the Land of Israel as a fulfillment of the reestablishment of Jewish religious national life. Israeli farmers must contend with the uncertainties of nature, drought and other natural disasters, and the danger, damage and economic upheaval of border conflicts.

And every seven years, Israel’s farmers of faith observe the shmitah – a Shabbat for the land – taking upon themselves the hardships of this collective religious obligation, motivated by the desire to fulfill this important mitzvah at the heart of shivat Tzion, in keeping with the Torah’s identification of shmitah with Jewish national flourishing. But it requires tremendous sacrifice.

Closing down operations for a year or more means lack of income and loss of long-term contracts. Israel’s food suppliers, farmers struggle to feed their own families during shmitah and the following year. They must maintain ongoing lease and tax payments for their land and farm equipment, or risk having the equipment repossessed and the land given to others who do not share their Religious Zionist commitment.

Who are these farmers, these families, who sacrifice so much to fulfill the mitzvah of shmitah on behalf of all Jews? What motivates their commitment? What fortifies their faith? Here are their stories, in their own words.

Click thumbnails for each farmer’s family description, photos and videos.