Monday, December 27, 2010

Of Sheep, Kibbutz, Xmas and Spies in New Zealand

Adam Levick
CiF Watch
27 December '10

A Guest Post by AKUS

Many years ago, shortly after I joined my kibbutz, a raging feud broke out over the future of the kibbutz’s sheep “department “or “branch” – the “dir”, as it was known. The manager of the “dir” – let’s call him Yossie – had invested a large part of his life in building up this flock of about 50 or so sheep, and was convinced that he could maintain it as a profitable branch of the kibbutz. The main produce of the “dir” was sheep’s milk, plus the annual wool that was sheared, and, no doubt, some meat from the more superannuated members of the flock.

Yossie’s enthusiasm for his branch was not shared by many other members. Sheep tend to need grazing space, and there were more profitable uses of the kibbutz’s limited land. Milking sheep was hard work, done at miserable hours of the early morning, and it was hard to get kibbutz members to work in the “dir”. The price for sheep’s milk was going down – this was in the days before the PC crowd got going and would pay higher prices for sheep’s milk. The smell was awful – if you are at all familiar with the smell of a dairy farm, add-on that that a sort of sickly smell that seemed to be part and parcel of the “dir”, which would cling relentlessly to the bodies of those who worked there.

There were also dark accusations that the head of the dairy branch was trying to get the sheep milkers to join his group to milk in the growing and more profitable dairy business, and was undermining Yossie’s business.

The reality was, of course, that raising a small flock of sheep in an arid country like Israel is simply not a profitable business. It can be a hobby for those who want to make cheese from sheep (and goat’s) milk, but there is no comparison with the sheer volume of milk and the automation possible when dealing with a well-run dairy herd. The “dir” was closed down. Yossie, to this day, has never forgiven the kibbutz and reconciled himself to the economics of raising sheep.

This week we were treated to the presumably heartrending story of how the Israeli occupation of the West bank has ruined the sheep herding business there.

(Read full "Of Sheep, Kibbutz, Xmas and Spies in New Zealand")

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