Daily Israel Report
Show More

OpEds


The Unbearable Lightness of Rustling

Arutz Sheva learns just how easy it is to abscond with entire herds of Israeli cows as the authorities look on and do nothing.
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/23/2012, 10:28 PM

Cows
Cows
Reuters

A resident of Emanuel tells how he warned of the theft of cattle trucks to a Palestinian village, and how incompetent security forces in the area allowed the theft to take place unhindered.

David Singer of Emmanuel told Arutz Sheva how thieves from Palestinian Authority enclaves operate in Judea and Samaria in broad daylight while hapless security forces look on.

Last week, Singer took his wife from their home in Emmanuel to a hospital on Israel's littoral plain, when she went into labor.

On the way, near a security checkpoint run by the Ministry of Agriculture adjacent to the village of Nebi Elias, he spotted three truckloads of cows "in the orange groves, they had hidden trucks packed with Dutch cows for milking. You could see they were filled with milk, and on them were Israeli numbers and registration tags, rather than those one sees on herds of PA cows."

Singer says he is convinced the cows were stolen from a nearby kibbutz or moshav.

He said the thieves were only a minute away from the checkpoint, which is supposed to prevent the theft of produce and cattle, but that the thieves always leave on a dirt road between the trees to avoid passing through it.

When I got to the checkpoint "I told him that there is, right at this minute, a herd cows that I think are being stolen," Singer related. "He ran to report the incident, but I had to go and rush to the hospital and could not help him."

"It was important to stop and tell him, despite my wife being in labor, because I knew that somewhere there is a farmer sitting crying for what was stolen from him," he added.

Hours later, Singer's wife gave birth to a healthy child, and when they passed through the checkpoint the next day the same inspector was working. Singer asked him if he recieved a medal for stopping the thieves, but the inspectors response was alarming. 

Singer says the inspector told him that the farmer confirmed the cattle were stolen, but that by the time they arrived "The truck had fled to Nebi Elias."

Singer did not understand how a large and cumbersome herd of cows could be loaded onto trucks and driven through the orchard into the village before the Police could stop them.

"You could not stop them?" he asked, astonished, only to be told that the officers on the scene were from Tel Aviv - and therefore forbidden to give chase in Samaria (Shomron).

"It's amazing to see how the theft is carried out right in front of the Police and no one does anything," Singer said.

A Border Police spokesman told Arutz Sheva that what Singer was told is categorically incorrect, and that police may give chase in any case where there is a crime in progress. There is also a mobile force in the area that can be dispatched to assist in such cases, the spokesman added.

The Ministry of Agriculture, which maintains a special response unit for produce and livestock thefts, said none of its own inspectors were in the area the day the theft occurred. However, they added, their inspectors and response unit can intervene when a crime is in progress without seeking the assistance of the IDF, Border Police, or Israel Police.

Israeli Cattle Breeders Association chairman Haim Dayan says cattle rustlers steal at least 2,000 heads of cattle per year, causing millions of shekels in damage.

When police do bring a case to court, Israel’s judges have begun taking a hard line. Last October, the Nazareth District Court upheld the sentence of an Umm Al-Fahm man to 75 months in prison for stealing 56 sheep. The defendant was also fined 70,000 shekels and ordered to compensate the farmers and car owners 74,000 shekels.

But – all too often – arrests are never made.

The trend has grown so severe that private citizens in Israel's agricultural areas have formed the 'New Guard' to patrol the fields so that Israel's ranchers can sleep at night.

And, for the past three years, Ran Mordechai, who breeds cattle at Kibbutz Galed in the north has been building a DNA database that includes genetic samples of all the calves born there.

He isn't alone. The scientists at the Bactochem laboratories in Nes Tziona are collecting specimens taken from the ears of cows and bulls belonging to cattle breeders from all parts of the country for DNA reference.

Even so, Mordechai says traditional law enforcement still needs to actively pursue the thieves.

Science "can't be the only tool," he said  "What is needed is more serious and widespread law enforcement. They have to go to the herds where the stolen calves are taken, but the police do not always do so."

"In some cases, the cattle is stolen [and taken] into the Palestinian Authority and the police are unable to act there," he said.