Paul Alster
Israel-based print and broadcast journalist

Bacon sandwich solution to regional crisis?

Not for the first time, Israel is being accused by the Palestinians of finding the most dastardly of ways of sabotaging regional peace. In a speech in Ramallah on Friday night, at the end of a dreadful week in the region, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, amongst other things, accused Israel of releasing wild boar to destroy Palestinian farmland.

“Every night, [Israelis] release wild pigs against us,” Abbas said . “Why are they doing this to us?”

It seems something of an Arab obsession to accuse Israel of using wild animals to further their ends. We’ve had ‘spy’ vultures captured in recent years by both Sudan and Saudi Arabia, both of whom were part of Israeli zoological research projects and reportedly had return addresses attached to their plumage. Then there were the killer sharks Egypt accused Israel of sending to terrorize tourists at Sharm el-Sheikh, and the Turks got in on the act after being convinced that a little European Bee Eater bird on a winter visit to Istanbul, was actually an Israeli spy.

So now — and not for the first time – there are accusations of using wild boar as Israeli agents provocateurs, sent to eat all the Palestinian fruit and vegetables, sabotaging the Palestinian economy beyond recall.

It seems that the north of Israel, in particular, has a big problem with wild boar. They have flourished in recent years and become unafraid of entering villages and even small towns, such as mine, Zichron Yaakov, where I encountered one of the beasts on an unforgettable late-evening walk with my dog a few years ago. He, or she, (I didn’t get close another to find out), wasn’t going to give way, so I beat a hasty retreat as he/she didn’t look very happy to see me.

Maybe because neither Jews nor Muslims eat pig meat, boars have produced rapidly growing populations. A friend of mine took me to his vineyard in the Galilee this summer which had literally been stripped bare by wild boars who breached the perimeter fence and snaffled a huge amount of Cabernet Franc grapes. Local police should surely have been able to spot the culprits, a herd of long-haired, smelly, snout-faced so-and-so’s, decidedly the worse for wear, staggering drunk in the middle of the night in the vicinity of Carmiel!

So, Mr Abbas, it is not just Palestinians who are being inconvenienced by our porky pests. A little research brought me to an article which seems to have established the root of the problem, which I suspect, may be of interest. Last November’s Scientific Daily presented a report on the subject of Israel’s wild boar, compiled by six distinguished professors from Israel and the UK.

“Our DNA analysis proves that the wild boars living in Israel today are the descendants of European pigs brought here starting in the Iron Age, around 900 BCE,” said Prof. Finkelstein [one of the research team]. “Given the concentration of pig bones found at Philistine archaeological sites, the European pigs likely came over in the Philistines’ boats.”

The study added that it is quite likely that the Romans, during their subsequent tenure of this land, brought their own breed of domestic pig which may have bred with the Philistines’ wild boar to become the forerunners (or fore-trotters) of the creatures currently perplexing the combined wits of both Israelis and Palestinians today.

As the Philistines are essentially the people known in today’s parlance as Palestinians – and I’m not making any political point here – it appears that actually, the only people to blame, Mr Abbas, are your own forefathers for importing them into this region. One would assume that, in the days before Islam, Philistines ate the dear old boars, maybe having a penchant for a sly old bacon sandwich.

So, unless some bright spark takes the bull by the horns (or the boar by the tusks), and sees a golden business opportunity in exporting wild boar meat to the European markets – where it is a much sought after delicacy – it looks like this is yet another Israeli-Palestinian problem that is not going to be solved any time soon.

About the Author
Paul Alster is an Israel-based broadcast journalist with a special interest in the Israel/Palestinian conflict and Middle East politics. He is a regular contributor to a variety of international news websites including The Jerusalem Report, and was formerly's main Middle East correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @paul_alster or at
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