The saga of the Jacob’s Sheep’s journey to rejoin their Biblical masters in the Holy Land has taken a tragic twist as a local disease claimed almost half of the herd this summer. But their intrepid owners are undaunted, attributing the survival of the next generation of sheep to divine providence.
Last year, against all odds, Gil and Jenna Lewinsky succeeded in bringing over an entire herd of 119 Jacob’s Sheep from Western Canada. The sheep are a rare breed experts believe originated in Israel and their unique spotted appearance conforms to the Biblical account of the herd Jacob received from Laban.
And the flocks conceived at the sight of the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. Genesis 30:39
Miraculously, none of the sheep died in transit, but, as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai warns in the Talmud, “The land of Israel is acquired through suffering”. In late June, the herd contracted Bluetongue Disease, a virus transmitted via insects. Mortality from the disease can run as high as 90 percent in imported breeds. Of the Lewinskys’ herd, 48 sheep died in the last month, leaving the couple with slightly more than half their original herd.
But remarkably, the young lambs born last month, normally the most susceptible to the disease were all spared. Gil had a special explanation for this.
“All 30 lambs were adopted in our name-a-lamb fundraiser,” Gil told Breaking Israel News. “I am sure it was the prayers of the people who adopted the sheep that protected them.”
Gil compared it to the Exodus from Egypt in which the older leaders, Joshua and Caleb, survived with the young Israelites.
“The same thing happened in our flock,” Gil explained. “The older sheep leaders, Kallah, Isaac, Benjamin, and Hezekiah are still very healthy, ready to lead the new generation.”
Jenna learned a powerful lesson from the loss. “We loved every single sheep, but we know God has a bigger plan,” she said. “In the end, it will all be good.”
Every cloud has a silver lining. Each ram has four horns and their deaths, as tragic as it was, means that for the first time in 2,000 years, the sound of Jacob’s Sheep shofar will be heard in Israel.