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Thieves in the Night

Aharon Granot

Under the radar, far from negotiating tables and peace conferences, the real struggle over Eretz Yisrael is taking place after dark on farms and ranches that have become a pilfering trespasser’s dream — where livestock thieves cut fences, haul off cattle, and leave ranchers vulnerable and defeated. Now a team of volunteer night guards is changing the balance of power.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

It's after midnight near the fence surrounding the northern farming town of Beit Lechem Haglilit near Yokneam, and the neighboring Arabs have come to check whether the Jews are out standing guard, or if they’ve decided to pass this time. Would they get lucky and be able to make a getaway with sheep and cattle tonight? The lights ofShlomoLampert’s jeep cut through the blackness. For this round at least, the Arabs will leave empty-handed.ShlomoLampert’s team has no weapons and no uniforms, and members come from all points on the spectrum of Israeli society. They are right-wingers and left-wingers, young and old, residents of settlements and cities, academics and students, corporate executives and attorneys. Once a month they stand guard, exchanging their suits for work clothes and their laptops for emergency buzzers, waiting for the moment when someone — usually an Arab from a neighboring village — will attempt to steal a piece of farm equipment, or a sheep or cow. They are here because no one else is. They are here because today, in 2015, 110 years after Yechezkel Chenkin and Alexander Zaid established the “Hashomer” guard to protect Jewish farmers from thieves and bandits in pre-state Palestine, today’s Jewish farmers are again left alone to face nightly infiltration attempts. Welcome to Israel’s own “Wild West” (or more accurately, the “Wild North”). Welcome to the area where car thieves, livestock thieves, and vandals operate freely, threatening the very lives of the Jewish farmers who are struggling to survive in any way they can. Tonight’s volunteers, from a grassroots organization called “HashomerHachadash,” are protecting those farmers much the same way as the people of Hashomer did more than a century ago. 

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