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Israeli farmers trying to recover

Hilary Krieger Aug 24, 2006

Israeli farmers trying to recover

Hilary Krieger Aug 24, 2006


LISA NAPOLI: Nearly a third of Israel’s agriculture producers have taken a hit from the war. Now, those farmers are trying to start up again, rehiring workers and ramping up production. Hilary Krieger says for some it’s a more complicated proposition.

HILARY KRIEGER: These are the cows of Kibbutz Amir that survived the summer’s war. Their collective farm lies just seven kilometers south of the Lebanese border. During the fighting a Hizbullah rocket landed on their shed, killing 50 of the other cows.

RONI LITBAK: It was like a massacre. When I came there I see cows without legs, half of the cows, burning of the cows. I can show you a picture but I don’t want you, you’re gonna lost your appetite.

Roni Litbak, who manages the farm, was released from the Israeli army to tend to his cows following the attack. He knows every cow by name, so for him the loss is personal, and also financial.

He figures that the farm lost $200,000, or 80 percent of its profits, from the rocket damage, dead cows and lost productivity. The farmers were mostly confined to bomb shelters, which meant less milking. And because the cows were terrified, they produced less milk.

LITBAK: During the war they was all the time in stress. Sometimes you can see them running inside the farm like lunatics because of the bombing.

Milk wasn’t the only agricultural product affected by violence.

Chickens, scared by the blasts of the Hezbollah missiles and Israeli artillery, laid fewer eggs. Many of those were then broken by anxious hens shaking their cages.

Leah Mor’s chicken coops and fruit orchards the Lebanese border.

LEAH MOR [translator]: We simply didn’t have quiet for a single minute. All the time you would be sitting and then suddenly there would be a boom. It was scary. And if we were scared all the time, so were the birds.

At least Mor’s chickens will start laying eggs again. Her orchards are a different matter.

Mor estimates over $100,000 in damage because she couldn’t water, spray or harvest her trees. It could take four years for the orchards to recover.

MOR [translator]: This is an enormous, enormous loss. It was the absolute peak of the season, and we couldn’t harvest anything.

In the meantime, Mor and her family gather the remaining edible fruit for the soldiers stationed nearby.

Across the north, 4,000 farmers suffered financially from the war. The agriculture ministry estimates a $100 million hit. Even before the rockets stopped falling, the government had drawn up a plan for compensation.

Yustai Bleier is the secretary-general of the Israeli Farmers’ Federation.

YUSTAI BLEIER [translator]: This isn’t the first time we’ve had a war, so, unfortunately, we’ve also gained a lot of experience on the issue of compensation.

Thanks to government aid and a short war, farmers like Litbak are confident that they and their cows will recover.

LITBAK: It’s not going to break us. It’s not going to make us fall. We’re going to cover it. It will take time, but we’re going to do it.

In northern Israel, this is Hilary Krieger for Marketplace.

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