A View From the Hills: Agricultural terrorism

Avraham Herzlich describes the theft of his flock of goats by Arabs as "agricultural terrorism."

311_goat and her kid (photo credit: Israel Weiss)
311_goat and her kid
(photo credit: Israel Weiss)
In the early 1970s, at the age of 18, Brooklyn native Avraham Herzlich was living the American dream. An engineering student at City College in New York, Herzlich, who was Jewish but had a very limited religious background, was busy spending his time living in the fast lane. His passion was working on and riding motorcycles and sports cars. To put it simply, he felt the need for speed.
But a few years later, Herzlich sensed that something was missing in his life. He felt a void, a sense of emptiness. So at the age of 23, he decided to take a trip to Israel and bought a boat ticket, setting sail on a two-week journey to the East. Very shortly after his arrival in the Jewish state an internal spark was lit.
There was no going back to the US.
Herzlich began studying the Hebrew language, and exploring his Jewish roots though the study of Torah. After learning about the Patriarchs and their physical and spiritual attachment to the Land of Israel, namely as shepherds, Herzlich decided to follow in their footsteps.
While situated in Rosh Ha’ayin in the center of the country, he learned of the village of Kfar Zeitim near Tiberius where opportunities existed for Jewish shepherds.
After traveling northward on foot, and bare-footed, for six days, Herzlich arrived at Kfar Zeitim and started on his path to become a real Jewish shepherd.
40 years later, married and with his own flock of children and grandchildren, Herzlich remains a true shepherd, steering his animals daily through the Samarian hills, with the community of Kfar Tapuach serving as his home base.
Unfortunately, just last month, late on a Thursday night, while his animals were grazing near the community of Migron in the southern Binyamin region, Arabs stole his flock of around 400 goats as he was sound asleep nearby.
Herzlich, who describes what happened not as theft but as “terrorism,” says that while he is devastated since he considers his flock “part of my family,” what happened wasn’t a total surprise.
In recent months security officials had warned Herzlich that he had been in the crosshairs of the Arabs for some time. “I was actually on an Arab hit list, since when the Arabs see a Jewish shepherd walking in the Land of Israel – that endangers them, and pushes them back. When you have a flock you move beyond fences, and the Arabs understand that when a Jew walks on the Land, he controls the Land. Our roads in Israel aren’t our claim to the Land, it’s our fields.”
While Herzlich and his grown sons went in search of the missing animals, they still have not been found. He says that while the value of the flock was quite high, “it’s not only about the money, or insurance covering the loss.” He adds, “As Jews, we want to build the third Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple isn’t a museum, it’s a place where you sacrifice animals. In other words, I was working with future sacrifices. Again, it’s not a question of money. I look at this flock as part of the expanded family of the Jewish people.”
According to Herzlich, this type of terrorism is not a new phenomenon. He says that hundreds of thousands of animals have been stolen by Arabs, not only in Judea and Samaria, but in the Negev and in the Galilee as well.
His statement indicating that the problem is not confined to Judea and Samaria was confirmed by Ari Briggs, International director of the Regavim Organization.
Regavim’s mission is to ensure responsible and legal accountable use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas.
According to Briggs, “all over our country, Jewish farmers are being chased off their land and herds are being stolen or killed.
The front lines of this silent conquest are all around us. Just ask any rancher or farmer in the Negev or Galilee.”
There are many other examples of similar incidents of “agricultural terrorism,” indicating that it’s a widespread threat.
According to a Regavim news update, just last month Israel Lands Authority inspectors, covered by a large force of police, tried to enter the Beduin village of Bir Hadaj to give out demolition orders on illegal buildings.
After spotting the inspectors many of the villagers came out and burned tires and threw rocks at the entrance to the village and on surrounding roads. After a while they moved to the neighboring Kibbutz Revivim and set fire to its feed barn, causing around NIS 2 million in damage.
A month earlier in October, Arutz 7 reported that a Jewish farmer in Shilo named Erez Ben-Sa’adom discovered that his olive grove had been vandalized with trees destroyed, and fruit stolen with damage in the tens of thousands of shekels.
“Uprooting trees, theft and throwing rocks at farmers is not rare, unfortunately,” he said. “Every year we suffer from assaults and thefts, both from the Arabs and from anarchists and leftists who come here from around the world.”
And just this past summer Lily Yung-Gefer, an Israeli judge serving as the deputy president of Nazareth District Court, warned that “Arab crime rings had taken agricultural theft to a new level.” Recent thefts from Israeli farms testify to “the development of a professional, organized theft industry... with cooperation between residents of the [Palestinian Authority] territories and residents of Israel.”
She added that the wave of agricultural thefts “does tremendous damage” and “threatens to cut at the base of the existence of stable, financially productive agriculture in Israel. All Israelis pay for such crimes with higher prices at the grocery store,” she said.
Sadly, Herzlich is no stranger to terrorism in its many forms. On December 31, 2000, his daughter Talia and her husband Binyamin Ze’ev Kahane, of Kfar Tapuah, were murdered when Arab snipers opened fire on their car while they were driving home from Jerusalem on the Ramallah bypass road. The couple’s five daughters, who were in the car at the time, were also wounded in the attack. For Herzlich, the details of that tragic episode are too painful to discuss.
But he does reference his children’s murderers, saying, “We’re living with... people who have no respect for life. If they can kill Jews, they are willing to kill themselves [in the process]. So the reality of life of Israel is not simple... I just ask that people pray for a solution, as we are living face to face with the haters of Israel.”
The writer is a media expert, freelance journalist and host of Reality Bytes Radio on www.israelnationalradio.com.