A relatively small swarm of locusts has arrived in Israel, according to Agriculture Ministry officials. By sunrise Tuesday, they'll be dead, officials vowed.
The swarm crossed the border from Egypt, where millions of the insects have attacked fields and farms in the Giza region.
Egypt was struck by a plague of locusts – one of ten such plagues -- as punishment by G-d in retaliation for refusing to free the ancient Hebrews after repeated entreaties by the Biblical Prophet Moses. The story is recounted each year in the Passover Haggadah during the Jewish holiday seder meal on the first night of Passover.
So far, just a tiny fraction of that plague has reached Israel, traveling as far north the Ramat HaNegev region by late Monday afternoon.
Officials said the ministry was preparing to exterminate the insects overnight Monday or at the latest by sunrise Tuesday morning, since locusts do not travel in darkness.
“Israel has air and ground-based pesticide systems which are ready for activation,” said Miriam Freund, head of the ministry’s Plant Protection and Inspection Service. Suppliers were already contacted to make sure there was enough of the chemical, she added.
The service is also in constant contact with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, which officially notified Israel of the Egyptian infestation as part of its monitoring efforts that cover the globe from northern Africa to India.
The ministry has set up an emergency hotline, asking Israelis to remain alert to any sightings of the insects. Readers are asked to call the “locust line” at 03-968-1500 between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. if a swarm of locusts is spotted.