Friends of the Jacob Sheep directors Jenna and Gil Lewinsky with their flock. (photo by Mustard Seed Images)
El Al has agreed to come on board as a partner and subsidize the flight of the Jacob sheep from Canada to Israel. The flight would take place from an airport in North America with logistics to be determined.
The airline’s announcement came as the Israeli Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development gave the green light for the export of the Jacob sheep flock of approximately 120 animals, subject to a quarantine on both the Canadian and Israeli side, and medical testing. Despite having a low incidence of blue tongue in Canada, the quarantine is to protect the sheep. After the Canadian quarantine, the sheep will be medically tested for blue tongue and then flown to Israel.
The Israeli agricultural ministry told the Times of Israel in June that Canada is not on the list of countries that are approved to export livestock to Israel, so the Jacob sheep flock “will be approved under special circumstances, on a one-time basis for tourism purposes only.”
The project has been endorsed by the Israeli embassy in Ottawa, which blessed the endeavor to return the sheep “to their land of origin, the state of Israel,” in a letter released in May.
The Jacob sheep’s return also has received rabbinical endorsements. Rabbi Amram Vaknin of Ashdod has called the return of the sheep a “highest mitzvah” and wishes to be there to bless their return. Late last year, local Chabad Rabbi Falik Schtroks visited the Jacob sheep flock for parashat Vayeitzei, to deliver a sermon and to wish them a safe return to the land of Israel.
Friends of the Jacob Sheep directors Gil and Jenna Lewinsky have started a crowdfunding campaign to help fundraise for the costs of transporting the sheep to Israel, for feeding costs and to build appropriate infrastructure for them on the Israeli side. The campaign can be found at gofundme.com/jacobsheep.