A total of 119 Jacob sheep, their origins tracing back more than 3,000 years ago to the Middle East, have finally returned home to Israel.
The sheep are being shipped on 11 flights from Gil and Jenna Lewinsky’s farm in Abbotsford to Hamilton, Ont. where they will be quarantined before flying out of Toronto’s Pearson Airport to southern Israel. It will likely take a month after all the sheep have arrived to be properly quarantined and vaccinated.
Three of the 11 flights have already landed. It’s believed to be the single largest airlift of animals in Israeli history.
The breed received the name Jacob sheep based on chapter 30 in the Book of Genesis, where Biblical patriarch Jacob tends to a flock of speckled or spotted sheep. According to the scripture, the flock were kept by ancient Hebrew people and factored significantly into religious life.
There is estimated to be fewer than 10,000 of the sheep left in North America.
In 2015, Gil Lewinsky told the Abbotsford News he and his wife Jenna were “on a mission to preserve these sheep.” They received their first few as a gift from a friend, but researched further into the breed and took on an entire flock when a heritage ranch decided to get rid of them.
The sheep were imported in the early 1900s to North America, where they have been cross-bred with different sheep varieties. However, the Lewinskys say all of their sheep are purebred as they come from heritage farms or farms with an aim of conserving the breed.
The Lewinskys will stay with the flock in the city of Ofakim.