For those who are home, and for those who are on the way. For those who support the historic and just return of the land of Israel to its people, forever loyal to their inheritance, and its restoration.
Two weeks ago, Erez Ben Sa'adon, a vintner, farmer and novice beekeeper, received a frantic phone call from the West Bank settlement of Eli. A swarm of bees had left its hive and was approaching one the settlement's day-care centers. The children were afraid. How, the caller wanted to know, should they deal with this threat?
Ben Sa'adon advised waiting, leaving the bees alone and not getting near them. About two hours later, the swarm returned to its hive and the danger passed.
The hive in Eli is just one of about 200 that have been constructed in West Bank settlements since January. Now that the harvest season has begun, the honey will soon be collected and marketed throughout the country.
However the goal of the project, which is being carried out in conjunction with Tel Aviv University and the University Center in Ariel, is not just to enable the beekeepers to make money. It is primarily intended to examine the West Bank's suitability for the cultivation of bees.
This project was prompted by the fact that Israel's consumption of honey has risen steadily in recent years, and local production can no longer keep up with demand. Therefore, some 500 tons of honey a year are being imported, at an annual cost of about $2 million.
It is difficult to increase honey production inside Israel. Ongoing urbanization and the destruction of natural forests have resulted in a dearth of land suitable for bee cultivation. The West Bank, by contrast, contains a great deal of relatively virgin land. It is very easy to plant it with vegetation that consumes little water while making the land suitable for bee cultivation, explains Dr. Miriam Billig of the Ariel-based R&D Center - Samaria and Jordan Rift, which is also involved in the project.
The current study is examining the most suitable vegetation to plant as well as the quality and quantity of the resultant honey. Among others, both rosemary and eucalyptus were found to produce good results. Moreover, both grow year-round and consume very little water, making them ideal for bee cultivation.
For Ben Sa'adon, who maintains hives in both Eli and Har Bracha, it has been a learning experience. He still does not open the hives himself; an experienced beekeeper helps him. And earlier in the year, he had to drive off a swarm of hornets.
Nevertheless, he is content. "We live on a wonderful bit of land, where our forefathers grew grapes, made wine and also produced honey. We try to love the land, and the land loves us back." .
I visited Hevron in November 2000 after the outbreak of the Rosh Hashanah War to see what could be done to assist in the face of the growing daily attacks on the community. After returning to work for the community in the summer of 2001, a bond and a love was forged that grows to this day. My wife Melody and I merited to be married at Ma'arat HaMachpela and now host visitors from throughout the world every Shabbat as well as during the week. Our goal, "Time to come Home!"