Like its Biblical archetype, a massive swarm of locusts has engulfed Ethiopia as a harbinger of an Exodus of Jews and a group of Israeli experts step in to help as a graphic reminder of the Biblical connection between Israel and the modern country of Sheba.
Israeli Experts Called to Help With Ethiopian Locust Crisis
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed requested help from Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Gabi Ashkenazi, in coping with a massive swarm of locusts plaguing his country. The Embassy of Israel in Addis Ababa is now leading the operation run by Yoav Mortro, Israel’s top locust expert, in coordination with the authorities in Ethiopia. The Israeli team is comprised of four experts, a logistics officer, drone pilot and scout, and spraying expert. The Israeli team arrived last week and plans on spending two weeks in the country, training 300 Ethiopians in fighting the locusts. The Israeli task force brought with it more than 2 tons of equipment including 27 drones and other advanced equipment that will be handed over to the Ethiopian authorities at the conclusion of the operation. The Israeli strategy for coping with the locusts involves using drones to remotely monitor the location and movements of the swarms and then spraying insecticide at night.
“The better thing as the experts told us is that it is possible to work at night; as locust is cold-blooded and sleeps at night it is efficient to fight the locusts at night. The experts will train over 300 persons at the locust affected fields,” Agriculture Minister Oumer Hussien told the Ethiopian News Agency.
Recent reports claim that the infestation has destroyed crops in over 900,000 acres of farmland belonging to half a million farmers since July in what authorities called the worst in 25 years. In addition to the locusts, flooding destroyed another 90,000 acres of farmland, displacing some 64,630 people. TO make matters worse, Ethiopia is being ravaged by a civil war in the north.
Swarms are often tens of square kilometers in size. A swarm of just one square kilometer eats the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people. The swarms also can travel 93 miles a day making efforts to control an outbreak even more difficult. Officials warned that further rains in the region could lead to an even larger outbreak.
About 600,000 people in the region depend on food assistance, while another million people receive other forms of support, all of which are now disrupted, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a report released on 7 November.
Lesser swarms have been reported in Kenya, as well as smaller ones in Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, and Somalia. Yemen, also wartorn, is struggling with an outbreak of locusts.
Desert locusts are always present in the region but are typically solitary. Favorable breeding conditions generate swarms and their behavior changes as they form groups that can be miles long and contain a billion individuals.
Last year, locusts destroyed 350,000 tons of grain and more than 3 million acres of pasture in Ethiopia.
Biblical Plague, Modern Exodus
This wave very much resembles the Biblical plague in this respect, coming as part of a wave of catastrophes that left the land of Egypt bereft of any food.
Locusts invaded all the land of Egypt and settled within all the territory of Egypt in a thick mass; never before had there been so many, nor will there ever be so many again. They covered the face of the whole land, so that the land was darkened, and they ate all the plants in the land and all the fruit of the trees that the hail had left. Not a green thing remained, neither tree nor plant of the field, through all the land of Egypt. Exodus 10:14-15
Like its Biblical precedent in Egypt, this plague of locusts comes in time to precede an Exodus of Jews from Ethiopia. Last month, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss deepening the ties between their two countries. In the course of the conversation, Netanyahu expressed his desire to immediately bring to Israel some 2,000 Ethiopian Jews currently in Addis Ababa and Gondar waiting to immigrate. The plan is expected to cost Israel $109 million.
Approximately 13,000 Jews currently reside in Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, and in Gondar in the northern part of the African country. About 9,000 of the Ethiopian Jews have been waiting for 15 or more years to immigrate. Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic have exacerbated the situation.
In 1991, Israel airlifted some 14,500 Jews out of Ethiopia in less than two days as part of Operation Solomon. About 140,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel today.
The connection between the two countries goes far deeper than a telephone call between two heads of state. According to Ethiopian legend recorded in the Kebra Nagast (Glory of the Kings), the Ethiopian national saga translated from Arabic, Menelik I, from whom the Ethiopian dynasty claims descent to the present day, was the son of Makeda, the Ethiopic name for the queen of Sheba, and King Solomon.
According to Jewish tradition, the ten-plagues will reappear before the Messiah. Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, explained this aspect of the Messianic process to Israel365 News, quoting the Prophet Micah.
“All of the miracles will reappear, all of the plagues, the entire story, in all its pain and all its glory,” Rabbi Berger said. “Our job in this generation is to speak about it, to pray for it, even while it is unfolding in front of our eyes.”