The HOPE  |  Academy Papers  |  Economic Reforms and Reconstructions


The Jubilee Plan / Cornucopia*

Dr. Yitzhak Hayut-Ma'N.


Having already squandered the opportunities of our first Jubilee,

How can we appropriately prepare for Israel's second Jubilee?

Imagine that tomorrow morning, at the opening of the Jubilee year of the State of Israel,  instead of planning shows and marches,  the Jubilee committee would inform that you no longer need to pay your mortgage. All the capital of Israel wherever it is would be collected by the State and dealt anew, equitably, among the citizens and residents of Israel: lands, buildings, shares of companies and so on.

Sounds imaginary? We did not invent it. Here is what the original proposition in the Biblical book of Vayikra (Leviticus 25:8-10) is like: "and you shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants, it shall be a jubilee for you, and you shall return every man to his possession, and you shall return every man to his family (estate)".

The historical sources do not inform us whether such a Jubilee was at all enacted in ancient Israel. It appears that it has not been carried out. Perhaps the agricultural economics situation of that period did not permit to cease all work for two years (the 49th year was always a fallow (Shemitah) year. But today, the modern economic methods make things easier. The requisite regarding redistribution of capital can be dealt with through one computer program.

It's O.K. folks. You can lean back on your private armchair which will still remain private  after 1998.  Relax! This is not going to happen within the framework of the celebrations of Israel's 50th year. We are discussing a radical plan, which should be prepared both economically, and particularly politically. Would not it be nevertheless right to see a more equitable distribution of lands and assets as the main national challenge featuring the next Jubilee?

It obviously appears to all that the State of Israel is on a crossroad, as it desperately needs both a radical renewal and a conceptual revolution. When considering for a moment the whole tissue of problems the state is facing, such as problems between Jews and Jews (religious-secular, the "who is a Jew?" conundrum), between Jews and Palestinian-Arabs, between Jews and Israeli-Arabs - the question asked is : What is the common vision for all these facets? Is it at all possible?

Both the Arabs and the Haredi Jews were forced to participate in "The Zionist Dream". It is possible that genuinely novel Zionist dream also could draw them both together. Even now, as we are searching through the socioeconomic utopias of the architects of Zionism, utopias that were forgotten in the rush of action, we shall find a yearning for the reinstitution of the Jubilee both in Herzl's book "AltNeuLand", and and in Zabotinsky's essay on the Jubilee (at <>). Thus, the Zionist movement did  intend to carry out in the future State an incomparably socially equitable regime.

Herzl, in the spirit of his generation dreamt about a liberal-capitalist economy that will be built through modern technology. But those who carried out Herzl's visions were socialist Zionists, that had dallied with the Russian communist revolution. Today, with the collapse of communism and the retreat of socialism throughout the whole world, we are left with a capitalist economy and a clearly cut class division which is also ethnical. The classical "proletariat" is made of Palestinians and foreign workers, two groups with no civil rights. One rank higher on the hierarchy are the Israeli Arabs on one hand and the Haredi Jewish community on the other.

Let's drop for the time being the foreign workers' question, and examine the status of the Palestinians, natives of this land from many generations. The issue of the establishment of a Palestinian State alongside with the State of Israel is an immediate existential problem pending on us all. The great worry is that such a state, when established, will not overcome the fears that the two people feel towards each other, and therefore will also not solve the conflict.

Can the Jubilee plan be conveyed as an appropriate substitute for the Palestinian State? A substitute which will be preferable for both national groups?

A solution for such a difficult and desperate problem should, in my view, derive its legitimacy from an Authority which raises above the normal political arrangements and diplomatic dealings, an Authority that will be recognized by all parties. The Torah of Israel is supplied with an Authority, which is accepted by most the Jews in the Land - and nevertheless not only by them: the Koran too, the holy book of Islam, is backed by the Torah and acknowledges its validity (see Dr. Asher Eder's paper on the Koran at <>).

If so, let us examine in more detail the Biblical principle of temporal cycles, built on serials of seven: six days of work and a Sabbath after them, six years of agricultural work and a (Shemittah) fallow year at their end, seven cycles of Shemittah and a Jubilee at their end. As noted, at the Jubilee every estate reverts back to its original owners, but further than that:  even if a Hebrew slave he asks to remain with his master, he is automatically released at the Jubilee. According to the Jubilee principles, it is impossible to keep Israelites under subjugation (and remember that according to our view "Israelites" include all the residents of the Land of Israel, regardless of the civil laws in effect in 1998).  It is not possible to set classes of masters and servants, nor possible to concentrate the means of production in the hands of the few for ever, and therefore not likely to have classes of rich and poor from birth.

In the capitalist world, in fact, there are experiments under way which recall the Jubilee principles. Forty years ago, "The Capitalist Manifesto" was published in the USA by Louise Kelso and the philosopher Mortimer Adler. The main principle it brought forth is the need to give employees shares in the companies they work in. Today the adherents of the Kelsonian methos, the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plans) activists work also in many developing countries, and recently a proposal bearing the spirit of the Jubilee has come up concerning the economies of the formerly-communist countries. According to this proposal, a foreign company that invests in a specific country would not gain a permanent hold on that land. Today's economic feasibility studies are based on the return of capital within 10-15 years. Economists have no interest in the value of a company after fifty years. Therefore the investing company would entail no loss by agreeing beforehand that after fifty years the ownership should revert back to the citizens of the assisted country. From the viewpoint of the assisted country, the difference is obviously significant. "And the land should not be sold forever".

The same economics logic is quite well able to solve the most fundamental problem, e.g. the Land's problem for making peace between Jews and Arabs in Israel. Even if "The Oslo Process" ran in an ideal manner, it would still have not solved the remnants of the Arab defeat in 1948 and the feeling of loss of holding over the land.

I assume that the Palestinians - both in a Palestinian state and in their Diaspora - are not going to forget "Lod and Ramla" (or their former cities in present-day Israel), nor the injustice they feel has been perpetrated upon them, unless they knew for certain that they have an equal share in a scheduled redistribution of assets within a foreseeable future. Even if not they themselves, their grandchildren would return to their homesteads, whatever they may be on either production or services company.

If they knew that within fifty years they will be eligible to a just redistribution of assets, the Arabs would be more reconciled towards many things which they cannot accept with today, neither within their hearts nor publicly. The generation of children and grandchildren, who will already develop within their inner-self the knowledge of what should take place in the next Jubilee year, will be much more open to develop peaceful relations and to appreciating the assets that they would share in due time.

We may note that what is at stake is not only so-called "real" assets. Israel has also a tremendous amount of potential assets of intellectual properties, that have been accumulated for over  thousands years through the work of the finest human minds, one of Israel's assets is it's being the land of the birth of monotheism, "The Holy Land". One does not need to mention that peace will turn this land into one of the world's primary touristic sites.

Since the traditional idea of the Jubilee is so good, it is perhaps worth wondering as a conclusion, how come that there is hardly a call among observant Jews to rekindle it? The answer is that according to the prevailing view of the Halakha (Jewish religious custom), the Jubilee cannot be restored until the Twelve Tribes reappear. This subject regarding the restoration of the Twelve Tribes will be reviewed in the next article.

Note: * (This article originally appeared in Hebrew in Hayim Aherim No. 17 (Feb 98), the Israeli monthly magazine of natural medicine, mysticism and alternative thought. Revised 10.05.98).

Top of page

Home Page Academy Papers Cyber Library Comments E-mail