Any lucky soul who gazes at the sheep will witness a most miraculous phenomenon: the characteristic spots and speckles that give the sheep their name are not always entirely random. When viewed a certain way, the distinctive markings form letters, hinting at prophecy come alive in the hills of Judea.
The story behind the sheep is no less than miraculous. Jenna Lewinsky and her flock of Jacob’s Sheep is celebrating three years since their hooves first touched the Holy Land and exactly one year since the flock found their very special home in the hills of Judea. Originally from South Africa, Lewinsky was living in western Canada. She had no background in animal husbandry but when soring feed prices forced the local zoo to put some of the unique sheep up for adoption, Jenna was intrigued. The connection with Israel compelled her and she took the sheep in, connecting with them immediately, She felt a calling to return the sheep to the Jewish people and the land of Israel.
Jacob’s sheep are no longer found in the Mideast. Israeli flocks today are made up of Awassi sheep which originated in Syro-Arabian desert and are white, with brown or black faces. Experts believe the unique breed, originally raised by Jacob, accompanied the Hebrews into slavery in Egypt and spread from there to North Africa. The Moors traded them to Spain, and then to England. Collectors have since brought them to North America. Considered a ‘heritage’ breed, meaning the sheep retain many of their genetic traits, they thrive in desert climes and have four horns.
Their name comes from their striking speckled appearance, conforming to the description of the flocks that Jacob took with him when he left the house of his father-in-law, Laban. In the story, Jacob demands his wages for working for 14 years, claiming the speckled and black sheep that would be born. He removed all the speckled and black sheep and placed poplar, plane, and almond branches in the troughs of the stronger sheep, with the bark stripped off in stripes. He separated out the striped and speckled sheep as his own.
And the flocks conceived at the sight of the rods, and the flocks brought forth streaked, speckled, and spotted. Genesis 30:39
Three years ago, Jenna and her former husband Gil, began the long journey, the first stage being to transport 119 sheep 1,200 miles by truck from one side of Canada to the other. The trip was accompanied by a tremendous lightning storm much like the pillar of fire that led the Children of Israel through the desert. Israeli law prohibits the import of livestock but the Israeli ambassador was so taken with the sheep and the shepherds that he arranged a special permit. The sheep were then airlifted with eleven flights bringing them to Israel. after which they sat in quarantine in a farm in the south of Israel. The sheep steadfastly endured mortar fire and winter flooding.
But as Biblical Joshua could attest to, arriving in the promised land is the beginning of a new stage of the journey. The sheep moved eight times before Jenna was offered a plot of land in Judea, adjacent to Bethlehem and the city of Efrat. The sheep now have a home and as of last month, Jenna has a roof over her head.
Of all the amazing aspects of the sheep and their journey home, perhaps the most amazing is a phenomenon that Jenna discovered during the birthing season. As expected, each lamb was born with a unique pattern of spots and speckles. But Jenna became convinced that the patterns were not random. Many of the spots and speckles appeared to form Hebrew letters. Jenna accepted these letters as hints and named the sheep in accordance.
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