PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN and his wife, Nechama, welcome the children of dairy farmers at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem yesterday..
(photo credit: Mark Neiman/GPO)
The festive atmosphere at the President’s Residence on Wednesday belied the concerns of farmers living and working near the Gaza Strip.
A group of farmers and their children accompanied Michal Kraus, the executive director of the Israel Dairy Board, to a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin and his wife, Nechama, to present them with baskets of some of the numerous dairy products that are made from the milk and cream of Israel’s cows, goats and sheep.
The children all wore garlands of flowers in their hair. The men were in white shirts, the women in white blouses and the little girls in modest white dresses.
Kraus proudly presented eve of Shavuot statistics to the president and his wife saying that Israel’s annual milk yield is 1,450 billion liters coming from 810 dairy farms in moshavim and kibbutzim, primarily in the Negev and the Galilee. Some 30,000 people work as farmers, drivers, processors in dairy food production plants and in veterinary capacities. Some 1,500 dairy products are produced in Israel.
Kraus was particularly pleased that Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel who accompanied Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Russia had signed a cooperation agreement with his Russian counterpart. The agreement covers agriculture in general and dairy farming in particular.
Having dispensed with the niceties, Kraus reminded the president that during his time in the Knesset, he consistently defended the interests of farmers and hinted that his support was needed yet again Dairy farming represents 20 percent of overall farming in Israel, she said, and Israeli cows give the highest milk yields in the world, but she warned that despite all of Israel’s technological advances in agriculture, there was a danger of Israel losing its dairy prestige, because land originally designated for agriculture is being rezoned for residential and commercial purposes.
Eviator Dotan, head of the Israel Cattle Breeders Association, told Rivlin that while the farmers are committed to the ongoing improvement of their industry, it would be helpful if legislators stopped maligning them and putting obstacles in the way of their income. “We want the politicians to realize how we contribute to the economy and to stop denigrating us,” said Dotan. “We need you to help us to restore the status that agriculture once enjoyed.”
Rivlin replied that during the years in which he was a member of Knesset, he was always part of the farmers’ lobby. He has a particularly soft spot for agriculture and farming because his wife was born on Moshav Herut where her mother had a small dairy farm with four cows.
“Agriculture is not just a need, it’s a value,” said Rivlin. “It’s an important part of the history of Zionism and of the overall history of the Land of Israel.”