The Wandering Sheep of Israel

Group of Jacob Sheep Posing -(Credit: Jacob Sheep Israel)

Eight months into their aliyah, Jacob Sheep flock is wandering from home to home and the Israeli government refuses to issue them a tourist license.

It was supposed to be a day of great anticipation. The Agricultural Ministry is coming for a field visit to the Jacob Sheep and bringing with them an official who promised to come with money to assist the project. However, within 10 minutes of the meeting it became clear that none would be forthcoming. “We need to find another home for the Jacob Sheep”. “Maybe another Kibbutz or a Pinat Chai”. “This place is a short term solution”, the official saying before taking a selfie with a Jacob Lamb, and leaving with his car.

This is now the fourth time since the Jacob Sheep arrived in Israel in December 2016 that an Agricultural Ministry official has given the same message. Whether it was in the Negev where raging floods in the winter caused several quarantine sheep to die. Whether it was at Nes Harim, where an Agricultural Ministry delegation declared the location illegal and refused to cooperate on tourism. Whether it was in Sde Trumot in the Bakaa, one of the hottest places in Israel, where the first lambs of Israel were born; however, as the property had zoning problems and was not owned by us, the Agricultural Ministry ruled it out. Finally now in the Upper Galilee, again the same message is heard.

The Times of Israel has previously reported that the sheep have indeed started earning their keep. However, the plan was ruled out by the Agricultural Ministry.

Why is the government of Israel punishing its national treasure with wandering?

The flock came to the country with the goodwill of the country of Canada and with the admiring support of thousands from many countries around the world. The Embassy of Israel in Canada went as far as to crown the sheep as the only animal in Israeli history to receive the “Right of Return”. Upon arrival in Israel, after customs tried to seize another $10 000 USD in tariff fees, a committee of the Agricultural Ministry declared for the first time that the animal is a rare breed to be conserved. The Jacob Sheep finds its supporters among Secular and Religious Jews alike as a unique venture that ties Israel closer to its land and roots.

Despite these many triumphs, the Government of Israel seems to be content to sentence the sheep to wandering. Despite the countless requests from Israelis and tourists to visit the Jacob Sheep, the Government seems content to never give the Jacob Sheep a tourist license so that their story of inspiration can never come to fruition. All the Government officials ask the same thing: “How are you going to earn money off the sheep?”, while ruling out tourism.

The Jacob Sheep are in Israel. Once again Israel has sentenced the sheep to wandering. At stake is the national treasure that now calls Israel home.

About the Author
Born in Israel but raised in Canada, Gil Lewinsky worked as a journalist in Jewish newspapers including the Jerusalem Post after completing a Masters degree at the Munk School of Global Affairs from the University of Toronto. He also has a LLM in International Law from Lancaster University in the UK. His past topics include a book written about the Status of Gaza under International Law soon after its conquest by Hamas in 2007. He is perhaps best known as one of two people that brought a flock of Jacob Sheep from Canada to Israel in 2016, making history. He currently works as a teacher and English public relations professional in Israel.
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