Vandalism and theft continue to plague Israeli farmers. Two weeks ago, beekeeper Yinon Arkin discovered that 20 of his hives had been destroyed three months before the honey was collected. The damage is estimated at tens of thousands of shekels.
Arkin, 34, who lives in the settlement Avigayil in the South Hebron Hills, owns hundreds of hives at various locations throughout southern Israel. While this latest attack was not the first time his beehives have been vandalized, it was the first time the damage has been so severe.
When Arkin arrived at the hives he maintains at Beit Guvrin, he was shocked to find the honeycomb hacked up, the hives scattered and hundreds of thousands of dead bees.
Arkin’s wife Achinoam says that a month ago, the couple had five beehives stolen from another location.
“And two years ago, 10 hives were stolen. Two years ago, 70 hives were stolen from a friend of Yinon’s in exactly the same area,” she says.
What made the latest theft different, Achinoam explains, was the violence with which the hives were broken. “They hacked up all the honeycomb and threw the frames away across a large area. Just collecting it all took time. There are millions of dead bees left behind.”
The hives were located not far from Israel’s security barrier and a crossing that leads to the Palestinian village Tarqumiyah. Arkin thinks that the hives were stolen by Palestinians.
“It’s been this way for years. This is how things are done. They cut up the honeycomb and put it into sacks and smuggle it back to the P.A.,” say Arkin.
Agricultural crime, criminal or terrorist in nature, is rampant throughout Israel. Farmers find themselves helpless in the face of it. The issue is worsened by the fact that insurance companies often refuse to compensate farmers.
“Even though I suffered a severe blow, I’ll get back on my feet,” says Arkin.
“This was a big part of my hives, but it’s a more widespread phenomenon. The government isn’t aware of how serious the issue is because we don’t report most of the thefts,” he said.
“The government doesn’t know how to handle agriculture crime or at least include it in insurance that covers natural disasters or [compensate farmers] through property taxes. Either way, a solution must be found,” he says.
Many farmers seek the aid of the organization Hashomer Hachadash, which helps them guard their livelihoods.
Amichai Blut, who is in charge of the southern district of Israel for Hashomer Hachadash, told Israel Hayom that “Hashomer Hachadash started work right after we were informed about the incident. Various field units are active in the area, and technological means have also been erected. We won’t leave farmers to deal with criminals on their own.”
Said Blut: “We are calling on every farmer who has been the victim of agricultural crime to contact us so we can bolster Israeli agriculture and work to implement governability and sovereignty in open areas.”