JERUSALEM, DEC. 12, 2000 (

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A sabbath year called for in the Book of Leviticus will be applied literally for the first time in Israel, starting next March.

The new restrictions could cause the price of produce to double, the Argentine Catholic agency AICA reported Monday.

The biblical Shanat Shabbaton, or sabbath year of the earth, is in line with the passage from Leviticus 25:3-5.

That passage reads: «For six years you may sow your field, and for six years prune your vineyards, gathering in their produce. But during the seventh year the land shall have a complete rest, a sabbath for the Lord, when you may neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. The aftergrowth of your harvest you shall not reap, nor shall you pick the grapes of your untrimmed vines in this year of sabbath rest for the land.»

The Jerusalem rabbinate has requested that the passage be rigorously observed. Jewish agricultural workers will not be able to sell their vegetables and fruits, nor will produce from Israeli soil be sold.

Previously, rabbis allowed a flexible interpretation of this law. Israeli fields were rented by Arabs at a token price during the sabbath year, and Arabs were responsible for selling the produce.

The Jerusalem rabbinate has succeeded in its request that the plants of the gardens surrounding the Knesset, or parliament, not be watered during the sabbath year, since this activity is classified as «making the earth work.»

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