Haim Kohn, a 39-year-old haredi resident of Beit Hilkiya, inherited his family business several years ago when both his father and uncle passed away in the space of a year. Kohn resolved to keep the business going, and now, after investing incredible effort, he has been chosen as one of the forty most promising young agriculturists in the country, by the Israel Agricultural Committee.
Kohn is the third generation of his family to be a beekeeper. In the Fifties, his grandfather established a business with just 30 hives; his father, Menachem Kohn, and his uncle Haim expanded the business to 400 hives.
Seven years ago, Menachem passed away following a serious illness, and his son Haim resolved to step into the breach and help his uncle keep the family business going. Together they aimed to expand both the number of hives and their company’s reach – and then, just a year later, Haim’s uncle was killed in a road accident.
“It was a double tragedy, coming so close after my own father’s passing,” Haim relates. “My father and my uncle had been so close, and now they were both gone.”
There was little time for reflection, however, if Kohn wanted to see his family business survive. “It was really hard at first,” he describes. “Aside from the hard physical labor, I had to deal with all the emotions of losing two people I had been so close to. But I made the decision to continue in their footsteps and I took the plunge. I learned everything I could about the business, and my family really supported me during that period. There were a lot of challenges back then, but I’m happy to say that today, we’re in a very good place business-wise.”
During the past year, Haim expanded the number of hives in the business, and also his pool of customers. Together with his sons, who recently entered the business with him, he began to produce specialty honey for market. “The nature of the work – the open air, the wide-open spaces – gives me a special sense of the wonders of Creation,” Haim says, “and every morning I pray to G-d, asking for the business and everything else to go smoothly.”
Haim now has around 1,800 hives managed by four beekeepers. “What is my ambition?” he repeats the question. “To keep things going, and also to expand and grow – just as my father would have wanted.”
“This year, we set up a special committee to locate the most promising young agriculturists in the country,” related Haim Alush, director of the Israel Agricultural Board. “The amazing process Haim went through and the way in which he has developed his business grant him a place of honor on this important list. He has distinguished himself with his determination, his strong ideology, his love for what he does, and his devotion to his work. He has also introduced modern technology into his business, as well as fresh ways of thinking. It’s young people like Haim who will continue to ensure that Israel leads the world in the field of agriculture, and we are very proud of him.”
Ofi Reich, the director of Israel’s Honey Board, said, “Israeli beekeepers as well as the Honey Board congratulate Haim Kohn for being chosen as one of the 40 most promising young agriculturists in the country. Kohn sets a wonderful example for the way in which he has built his business, continuing in the footsteps of his father and thereby encouraging the next generation to keep the beekeeping industry going, despite the difficulties it has been experiencing in recent years, with the loss of a third of its businesses.
“This is a phenomenon that creates great concern for the future of humanity,” he added, “which depends on the survival of honey bees, which are responsible for pollinating 80% of the world’s agricultural crops.”