Couple eager to return biblical sheep home

Israeli producers living near Abbotsford, B.C., say Jacob sheep should be the national animal of the Jewish people

TORONTO (Reuters) — A breed of sheep believed to have been raised by the Jewish patriarch Jacob may soon be brought to Israel, its biblical homeland, after an Israeli couple gathered a herd in Canada and brokered a bureaucratic detente to import the animals.

Jenna and Gil Lewinsky’s efforts to send 130 sheep to the Golan Heights from Canada has been inching along for nearly a year as the reintroduction of the breed, known as Jacob sheep, was stymied by red tape between the two countries.

The couple, based near Vancouver, said Israel’s agriculture ministry initially opposed the project because Canada was not on a list of approved sheep importers.

However, Israel’s embassy in Canada facilitated a dialogue between the couple and the ministry and sent along “strong recommendations,” embassy spokesperson Eitan Weiss said.

“And the ambassador visited Israel. He met some people with the ministry of agriculture and issued a letter,” Weiss said.

“The idea was very, very nice, and of course we said, ‘let’s push it.’ “

According to Hebrew and Christian holy books, Jacob had received a flock of a spotted breed as wages.

The couple said the sheep have since gone extinct in Israel.

Late last year, Israel’s agriculture ministry changed its stance and said it has contacted its Canadian counterpart as part of the import process, Jenna Lewinsky said.

She said Israeli ambassador Rafael Barak walked in on the birth of a lamb when he visited her family’s farm in Abbotsford, B.C. The couple had started raising the sheep after receiving a few as a gift from a heritage farm.

“It should be the national animal of the Jewish people,” Lewinsky said. “It would be a very important and historic moment when the sheep return after basically 2,000 years.”

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