3000 years of history comes alive in the hills of Judea, Israel.
First it was the people, the descendants of the Forefather, the Patriarch Jacob.
Now it is Jacob’s sheep.
Once the Shepherd came home and his sheep ingathered too, the circle has been completed and the prophecy has become reality.
The sheep’s story is not the essence; rather, it is the symbol that makes this entire phenomenon so very special, spiritual and of great importance to the Nation of Israel.
Jacob’s sheep, what are they?
Creating the Breed
Jacob’s Sheep are a rare heirloom (unaltered) breed of ancient sheep, originated in the Middle East’s Levant, approximately 4000 years ago, in the story of Jacob and his father-in-law, Lavan, (Genesis 30).
The sheep are unique; they are piebald, of spotted and speckled patterns, they have knee-bands, and are multi-horned, up to as many as six. They have human eyes, see dimensions as human eyes do and they act as a pet.
Through selective breeding, Jacob created this breed. He thereafter spent seven years earning the sheep as wages for his own house with Rachel, (Genesis 30:28). When the drought became unbearable in the land of Israel, Jacob and his sons brought this flock down to Egypt, (Genesis 46-47); in all likelihood, 400 years later, after Exodus, when the Israelites returned to their homeland, their spotted lambs were used in the Temple’s sacred sacrifices.
It could be presumed that during the Babylonian exile of the Jews from their land, the flock was dispersed.
Jeremiah, the Prophet of those days bemoaned, “Look at those who are coming from the North. Where was the flock that was given you, the sheep of your glory.” (Jeremiah 13:20).
The Prophet Ezekiel was warning the Nation of Israel that greed of the ancient Israelites and their leaders will be behind the dispersion, while prophesying their return far into the future (Ezekiel 34).
Both prophets foresaw a return of the lost sheep [they referred to the nation of Israel] as essential to the final redemption (Hebrew-Geula).
The Prophet Isaiah explained that the return of the Nation of Israel (Jacob was named Israel) to their land, with help from East and West, is compared to the return of sheep, (Isaiah 49).
What Are the Sheep For?
Jacob’s sheep are not blessed with much delicious milk from which delightful cheese is made.
“So, what is Jacob’s sheep are used for?” I asked Jenna.
“As the biblical story goes, Joseph was Jacob’s youngest son from his beloved wife Rachel. To Rachel Joseph was her firstborn, her eldest son, so Jacob loved him the most and gave him a striped shirt (Could be a long frock, or a coat, as they wore in those days) (Genesis 37:3). This love caused great jealousy among Joseph’ brothers.”
“In those days, I am assuming that these sheep’s unusual fleece was used to make coats, just like Joseph’s coat. The horns were used to make the Shofar, the Jewish instrument that makes a trumpet-like sound and is traditionally blown on Rosh HaShanah, the Jewish New Year and Yom Kippur. Also, they blew the Shofar as a way to make an announcement while standing on hill-tops. The sheep’s skin was made into parchment to write on it and of course, the sheep were used for sacrifice at the Temple, as part of those days’ sacred rituals,” Jenna explains while giving me the look as if she is living in those ancient days.
Present Day Jacob’s Sheep
Like their shepherds – the Nation of Israel – the original sheep spread out around the world. Some remained in the Middle East, some were traded to Spain and via the Silk Road to China. In the 17th century Britain obtained the sheep through trade. In the early 20th century the sheep arrived in North America and in late 2016, they finally touched ground from Canada, in their original home, the land of Israel.
With much immigration hurdles to overcome, the flock, though small in number at present, landed up to be the initiating foundation of the Eitam Hill neighborhood, in the city of Efrat, some 20-minutes’ drive from Jerusalem. It is very possible that there, in the Judea Hills, Jacob shepherded his sheep.
Jenna Lewinsky, the Modern-Day Shepherdess
I recently visited Efrat, named after a biblical figure, the wife of Caleb the son of Hetzron, a descendent of Jacob’s son, Judah, (Chronicles 1′ 2′:19) and is the other name of Bethlehem – “In the way of Efrat, that is Bethlehem,” (Genesis 48:7).
There I met my friend Shmil Atlas, the Executive Director at Keren Efrat and the Special Advisor & Envoy to the Mayor of Efrat, the capital of Gush Etzion, located south of Jerusalem. Shmil organized for me a surprise visit to Eitam Hill, Jacob’s sheep’s new home. There I met Jenna Lewinsky and her Jacob’s sheep family.
Efrat was established as a planned city with several designated suburbs. It is being built one suburb at a time; Eitam is the next suburb that has been approved for a build-up. In the meantime, while building plans are drafted, Jacob’s sheep’s 3-weeks old farm, named Migdal Eder, a name of a place the Patriarch Jacob passed in his travels, has put its stakes there.
Jenna, a South-African-Canadian lady, is a smiley modern shepherd. She is roughing it in the Judea Hills of Eitam, but for a cause.
Jenna believes that Jacob sheep’s first shepherdess was the Jewish people’s Foremother and Jacob’s greatest love, Rachel. And so, it is most appropriate that from her Jacob sheep’s farm you can see Rachel’s burial tomb.
As the story goes, the wandering Jews came home to reestablish their third commonwealth. It was time to bring their flock of sheep back home too. And here Jenna Lewinsky came into the picture.
Jenna came home along with the remnants of Jacob’s sheep. They will procreate and grow exponentially, just as Jacob’s kids returned home to rebuild their homeland, just as Jacob was told by God it will be.
Jenna’s Way of Naming Her Flock
Jenna named the flock’s patriarch Isaac; the flock’s matriarch she named Kallah, a bride in Hebrew.
“I have a few ways in which I name the flock. Sometimes they are born with what appears to be marking that resemble a Hebrew letter, so I name the sheep with a name that starts with that letter. Other times I look into those cute lamb’s eyes and a name just comes to me,” Jenna speaks lovingly about her sheep. “All the sheep have a Hebrew name and each sheep knows his/her name and responds when he/she is called,” Jenna continues with that sense of connection she has with each and every sheep in the herd, though some are somewhat more special to her than others, one special one is Rachel the sheep.
Jenna, in her small caravan is keeping very busy; she is writing her memoir about the sheep she gained, the adventurous journey she and her then husband took together to bring the sheep to the Holy Land, the sheep who made Aliya, meaning ascending – the term used for immigration of Jews from the diaspora to the Land of Israel (The sheep traveled on Air Canada and it cost a total of $80,000 to ship 119 head to Israel); the bureaucracy she faced in Israel and the wandering she had to endure, till she got to Eitam and settled. There the sheep are kept happy and protected in a well-built weather proof tent, looking forward for the future that is planned for them.
Jenna needs help and help should come in abundance.
“One day, I turned my computer on and there appeared a donation notification that read: ‘Hi, I am from Florida and just loved Rachel cute smile in the photos online and here is $30 dollars to buy Rachel a bag of grain,” Jenna mentions this generosity from a stranger who followed online her preferential fond-behavior with Rachel.
Jenna needs a caravan type home that offers sanitation, shower, and somewhat living comfort. Right now, her living conditions are rough and do not meet standard.
The sheep need grain and hay.
Jenna and her Jacob’s sheep welcome volunteers, donated hot meals, help with guarding and ongoing donations until the farm is well established.
For any and all offered help, please make contact with Shmil Atlas of Keren Efrat:
All great things start modestly. Any and all support would make an impact, an impact that is greatly needed and most appreciated.
A Full Circle Made
The descendants of Jacob, whose name became Israel – are the people of Israel – returned home to their promised land. And now, Jacob’s flock, a pure thoroughbred, for conservation, with officially registered DNA certification going back 12-to-14 generations and to Jacob’s flock, joined them.
A shepherd is a leader. The work has begun. The people of Israel will be shepherds in the world.
Efrat is a biblical name; it is nestled in the Judea Hills, and has become the home of Jacob’s sheep
In the Judea Hills these sheep are the happiest, because there Jacob herded their ancestors.
And so, the Jewish people have made a full circle; people and flock in the land of Israel.