(photo credit: FRIENDS OF THE JACOB SHEEP)
“A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation.”
– Edmund Burke
The recent outright refusal of the Agricultural and Rural Development Ministry to take in the biblical Jacob sheep from Canada to preserve in Israel’s north robbed the whole nation of Israel of the opportunity to become acquainted with the sheep that our Patriach Jacob fathered. The Jacob sheep is the national animal of the Jewish people and currently doesn’t exist in Israel.
In the book of Genesis, the Jacob sheep were created by Jacob when he took the existing flock of Laban’s spotted and speckled sheep, and, in one of the world’s earliest examples of selective breeding, bred them with white poplar rods to always produce spotted and speckled offspring.
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The sheep accompanied Jacob and his 12 sons to Egypt, where their blood was used on the door posts in the Passover story.
After the Jewish exiles the sheep lost contact with their Jewish owners and have endured their own exile over the ages until the present day.
Friends of the Jacob Sheep was created to conserve the last of the original, endangered and unaltered Jacob sheep and to return them to their original owners, the Jewish nation in the land of Israel. While other sheep breeds exist in Israel, only one was given to the Jewish people specifically; Jacob earned them as wages from Laban.
They are thus part of the Jewish heritage.
The Jacob sheep are unlikely to have health problems or suffer from diseases because they have not been interbred with other breeds and have been kept separate to preserve their heirloom traits. The current flock in Abbotsford, British Columbia, comes from an agricultural region that does not have any known sheep diseases. In addition, the breed is known to be hardy and disease resistant and also does not carry foot diseases. The facilities and agricultural standards in Canada are world class and disease prevention is of top-notch standards.
The establishment of a heritage park in the Golan Heights will ensure that the future of the ancient breed of Jacob sheep is secure for future generations. It’s a Jewish value to shepherd and to preserve endangered animals from extinction.
The historic opportunity for the Jacob sheep to return to Israel is now and we cannot afford to miss it, because the whole land of Israel is going through restoration and revival. If we do not fight for the opportunity to conserve the national animal of the Jewish people, the next generation will be building a museum in their honor in Tel Aviv. We need strong leaders who will do the right thing and allow the sheep to be imported. The flock of Jacob sheep is no risk but only a blessing to Israel.
We would like to appeal to Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Uri Ariel to please help the Jacob sheep make aliya and bring them home where they belong.
Gil Lewinsky is a director of Friends of the Jacob Sheep. He has a masters in global affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs of the University of Toronto and has been a past writer and contributor to The Jerusalem Post.
Jenna Lewinsky is also a director of Friends of the Jacob Sheep. She is a former South African Jewish leader of TaMaR and an Israel Government Fellow who interned at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.