Israel Beats Back Locust Plague, Rav Yitzchak Yosef Says They Are Assur to Eat


rav-yitzchak-yosefIsrael’s spraying of agricultural fields in the south of the country Wednesday morning succeeded in turning the tide in a millions-strong locust invasion from across the Egyptian border. The Agriculture Ministry said that thanks to the crop-dusting, the locusts weren’t flying or able to lift off from the ground.

Two planes, assisted by ground crews and trucks, on Wednesday sprayed with pesticides the migrating insects that had settled in the area the day before. The teams sprayed a swath of 1,850 acres, beginning the procedure at 6 a.m and continuing into the early afternoon.

“It’s like an insect cemetery down here,” Omri Eytana, a farmer from Moshav Kmehin the Nitzana area, told Army Radio a little after 10 a.m. “There are [only] hundreds of locusts in the air, and they’re still spraying.” He said his tomato crops were unharmed, because they are protected under nylon covers. Potato crops in the area were badly damaged, though, he said.

Shmuel Turgeman, who heads a government-run fund that organizes insurance for farmers, said the situation was “under control.” Inspectors were out in the field gauging the extent of the damage to potatoes and other crops.

Though the locusts were moving northward, they were not expected to reach central Israel’s major population centers because of a cold front that was predicted to drive the insects to the south.

Southern Israel’s skies were blackened Tuesday by the wings of millions of the locusts as the largest infestation to hit the country in decades swarmed across the Egyptian border and settled to chow down on the crops of local farmers.

A crop-dusting plane sprays a field in Israel's Negev Desert, Wednesday (photo credit: Dror Garti/Flash90)

Local residents were instructed to stay indoors and close their windows and blinds.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years and we have yet to see anything like this,” said Yankale Moskovich, a farmer from Ramat Negev.

Throughout Tuesday afternoon and evening, the Agriculture Ministry and local farming associations sprayed the fields with pesticides, from the air and from the ground, in hopes of salvaging the crops, but to no avail. The giant swarm landed on fields across the Negev and caused what farmers estimate to be hundreds of thousands of shekels in damages.

The locusts also caused damages to fields cultivated by Palestinian farmers in the Gaza Strip, and the Hamas government instructed residents on Wednesday to close their windows.

The Islamist group ruling the coastal Palestinian territory was quoted by the Chinese Xinhua news agency saying the swarms of locusts were neither big nor harmful.

Saleh Bakheet, director general of plant protection department in the Ministry of Agriculture, said in a press statement that the plague “represents no kind of danger or harm to people and plants,” and that “the situation is under full control and protection of the Ministry of Agriculture.”

A Palestinian farmer displays locusts at a farm in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip on March 5 (photo credit: Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

On Wednesday, Rav Yitzchak Yosef weighed in on the debate as to the kashrus of locust-based crunchy snacks, saying that despite popular opinion to the contrary, they were forbidden by halacha.

Rabbi Yitzchak, the son of former chief Sephardic rabbi and Shas mentor Rav Ovadia Yosef, said he had instructed talmidim at his yeshiva, Chazon Ovadia, not to eat the insects. “We are not familiar with their names and their signs; we have no clear tradition about them,” he said.

{Times of Israel/ Israel}


  1. No question about it if there woul;d be nothing else to eat to say youre life you would eat it even if its assur.but it is not assur according to others.

  2. Aren’t those locusts, above everything else, dangerous to eat? Already Saudi Arabia sprayed pesticides, Israel sprayed more pesticides, those insects who survived must be covered with all sorts of harmful substances. If it’s a problem to eat “bug-free” vegetables which are sprayed more than the average today is (and sprayed nothing at all if we compare, say, with the amount of poison that was habitually used in the 50s) how comes no one warns about this.

  3. Mane sefardim do have a mesora about the locusts.
    Recently I spoke to one Sephardic Jew who remembers eating them as a child before coming to the U.S.

  4. So the makah of arbeh hits mitzraim again, but this time the Yiddin are not spared. There is a very clear message in that which we must heed. Even though Israel was able to contain the invasion, the pesticides that they sprayed will inevitably be absorbed by Israel’s food supply, contaminating the produce that Israelis all over the country will consume and will expose them to untold threats to their health.

  5. #5 please! Some Persian Jews have the “custom” of eating milk and chicken. Some Sefardites have the “custom” of baking for Pesach with liquors which contain water. And what about karaites, they have a mesorah too. If a Sefaradi scholar has a minhag, it’s one thing, if some am haaretz tells us that’s what their grandfather did, it’s an interesting story for the Ethnology Dept, but not relevant to halacha.

  6. The Learned Mister # 7:
    If Persian Jews have a “custom” against Halocho it is irrelevant. Same thing goes with a Sefardi custom which you did not explain what it is.
    As far as the Karaites custom, why don’t you bring an early Christian custom they were also Jewish ?????????.

  7. “if some am haaretz tells us that’s what their grandfather did, it’s an interesting story for the Ethnology Dept, but not relevant to halacha.”

    That isn’t correct. If the Am Haaretz has been frum from birth, his testimony is accepted. We have been able to maintain mesorot for many bird species because of this.