Israel battled a swarm of several thousand locusts that had migrated northwards from Egypt, where between 30 and 120 million locusts had invaded, causing massive destruction. The locusts reached the Gaza Strip and had also covered a span of 2,000 acres of desert within Israel. As a result of this development, the Agricultural Ministry issued a locust alert, labeling it a medium-sized locust swarm. Since the alert was issued most of the swarm has been neutralized by airplanes spraying pesticides over the swarm. Locusts have not reached Israeli territory since January 2005.

Locusts are considered a major pest to farmers, since they endanger the entire years’ worth of agricultural production. They consume a wide variety of vegetation, ranging from leaves to flowers to fruit to seeds, etc, implying that the destruction they cause is comprehensive. Furthermore, a single ton of locusts is known to consume as much as 2,500 human beings. Indeed, there is a reason why locusts were one of the ten plagues that G-d sent the Egyptians when they refused to free the Israelite slaves. Interestingly, the locusts are plaguing Egypt again, and to a lesser extent Israel, three weeks before Passover is set to begin.

Israel geared up to manage the problem. Before the locust swarm arrived Miriam Freund, director of the Agriculture Ministry’s Plant Protection and Inspection Services said, “All the relevant parties in the areas that locusts can be expected to enter have been briefed and are on alert. Israel has an aerial and land-based spraying system that is ready for action if and when it is needed. We are in regular contact with the United Nations World Food Programme, which is giving us reports on the advance of the locust swarms.” She also instructed manufacturers of pesticides to increase their inventories, so that Israeli crops could be adequately protected from the locusts.

Evidently, the Torah lists four types of locusts as permissible to eat, even though most insects are not considered kosher. They are the yellow locust, the red locust, the spotted gray locust, and the white locust. According to the Talmud, “Any kind of grasshopper that has four walking legs, four wings, two jumping legs and whose wings cover the greater part of its body is kosher.” Dr. Zohar Amar of Bar Ilan University claimed that locusts were a common food during the times of the Mishna. Yemenite Jews also would traditionally eat locusts. However, Ashkenazi Jews have a different interpretation from Yemenite Jews on the eating of locusts. According to British Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz, “None of the four kinds of locust mentioned is certainly known. For this reason also, later Jewish authorities, realizing that it is impossible to avoid errors being made declare every species of locust to be forbidden.”

One local resident of Ramat Gan reported upon seeing a locust, “I discovered it after I stepped on it, when I went to move my tulip plants from the living room window into the kitchen. I was] following an ‘inner voice’ that told me to protect them in case the locusts arrived at Ramat Gan at night when I was sleeping or when I was at work the next day. I did not want to abandon the tulips.”

By Rachel Avraham