After three years of negotiations between Jerusalem and Ottawa, three planeloads of sheep from British Columbia have arrived in Israel. These are no ordinary sheep, but an ancient breed known as “Jacob’s sheep,” as Melanie Lidman writes:
Genetic markings for the breed date back at least a few thousand years to the Middle East. The journey for the sheep began in ancient times and passed through North Africa. Moorish invaders later brought the breed to Spain, whence it came to England, where the animal was something of a trophy sheep. A number were brought to North America, originally for zoos and then later for commercial use.
The breed received the name “Jacob sheep” based on Genesis 30, where Jacob talks about leaving his father-in-law Laban’s home and taking part of the flock as his payment for years of service. “I will pass through all thy flock today, removing from thence every speckled and spotted one, and every dark one among the sheep, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and of such shall be my hire,” he is quoted as saying in Genesis 30:32. . . .
But somewhere along the way, although the Jews returned to Israel, the uniquely speckled sheep did not return with them. . . . [T]he sheep has not been found in Israel for thousands of years.