A sweet year: the people and stories that make Israeli honey
Close to 40% of Israelis' annual honey consumption is for Rosh Hashanah.
In honor of the holiday of the workers of the bee industry, we went to visit six beehives and came back with several stings
Thursday, September 22, 2022, 11:27 am Updated: Sunday, September 25, 2022, 07:49 am
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How much of it do we consume on Rosh Hashanah Eve? (Photo: ShutterStock)
Let's start with some data: the volume of local honey production this year is record-breaking and will amount to approximately 4,400 tons of Israeli honey, according to data from the Honey Council.
The honey is produced by Israeli beekeepers in 120 thousand hives scattered throughout the country.
Its consumption among the Israeli public amounts to about 6,200 tons per year.
An Israeli consumes on average about 250 grams of honey in the month of Tishrei, out of an annual consumption of about 650 grams per person.
The value of bee pollination to the agricultural GDP in Israel is approximately 3.5 billion shekels per year.
Towards the New Year, the "Honey Festival" is held in the visitor centers of beehives throughout the country (some of which appear in this article), which will hold various activities related to the world of bees. This year, I call on the public to support and encourage Israeli agricultural produce and to buy pure, tasty and healthy honey for the holiday, directly from the beekeepers, in apiaries throughout the country," says Ofi Reich, CEO of the Honey Council.
For details and coordination of the dates of visits to the apiaries: honey.org.il, on the "Honey Festival" Facebook page and on the websites of the apiaries.
Yair Schwartz, Yad Mordechai apiary (photo: courtesy of Yad Mordechai)
Veteran in the field: Yad Mordechai
• The apiary: The Yad Mordechai apiary in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, one of the honey pioneers in Israel, began operating in 1936, when the founders of the kibbutz learned beekeeping from Australian and British soldiers stationed in the country.
Soon the beekeeping branch became the main branch of the kibbutz and later the pure honey was distributed throughout the country on the way.
Throughout the years of the apiary's activity, the number of hives grew from a few dozen to more than 4,000.
In January 2003, the Elite company (now Strauss) acquired 51% of the ownership of the Yad Mordechai apiary and allowed the apiary to continue to develop into new fields, while the kibbutz continues to maintain 49% ownership.
Besides the honey, the Yad Mordechai brand has a wide variety of products such as: olive oil, natural silane, jams, natural maple and more.
•Honey: The financial sales of the honey market in Israel for 2021 is about NIS 125 million (according to Stornext data), with Yad Mordechai accounting for about 55% of the market share of the market.
Yad Mordechai is the largest buyer of Israeli honey and works with many beekeepers throughout the country.
The beehive's honey is based on local honey, which is mostly collected by the beekeepers in Israel and some of it is collected abroad, because Israelis consume more honey than the beekeepers in Israel can provide. The entire production process is done by Yad Mordechai, where the raw material is part of the process.
The experts of Yad Mordechai produce Unique blends adapted to the Israeli palate. For example, in the pressure bottle there is a unique blend with honeys that are less likely to crystallize. This, compared to honeys found in a jar. Yad Mordechai's best-selling product is honey from wild flowers. In addition, last year the "Natural Treasures" series was launched, which offers A variety of products made from special varieties, including rowan honey, citrus honey, and honey with royal jelly 7% - specially concentrated.
• The difficulties: "The main difficulties in the honey industry stem from dealing with the accelerated urbanization processes that come at the expense of nature, the fields and the blossoms," says Yair Schwartz, the director of activities with the beekeepers.
"In addition, spraying near beehives and a pest called 'varroa' which attacks the beehives and the bees, greatly thins the bee population."
Rosh Hashanah: "This is a very exciting holiday for us at the apiary - honey consumption is reaching its peak. This year we launched two new products in honor of Rosh Hashanah: TO GO personal honey packages containing 100% pure and high-quality honey from wild flowers, with 18 personal packages in each package; we also launched honey packages Personalities designed with blessings and best wishes for the new year that can be incorporated into holiday gifts and to design and upgrade the table."
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Beekeeper Amit Yosef (Photo: All Honey Apiaries)
New to the landscape: everything is honey
• The apiary: In 2019, the beekeeper, Amit Yosef, inaugurated a new visitor center at the base of the Maale alongside a new factory for honey extraction and packaging of the "Hall Honey" apiary.
The apiary in its previous and smaller version was located in Kibbutz Holta from 2005.
Today, the approximately 800 beehives of Yosef, a former soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces and a saboteur in the police, are scattered all over the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights.
The honey: the apiary produces approximately 20-25 tons of honey per year from five varieties: eucalyptus, jujube, wild flowers, avocado and summer flowers The honey is sold to the consumer at the factory store in the apiary, in the stores located in the area of the apiary, and also through deliveries on the online site.
The difficulties: "First of all, you deal with the elements and theft," says Yosef. "Also, the work is physical work, you have to get up Early in the morning, work in the heat.
But there is satisfaction in the work.
Without love for bees and nature, it is impossible to engage in this industry."
Rosh Hashanah: "A month and a half before the holiday, we already increased the number of packages, prepared special packages, made special sizes suitable for shi packages. Also, we prepare honey crackers for the shi packages: walnuts and almonds covered in honey. Of course, we also expect visitors to come and enjoy a tour At the factory, delicious."
The couple Shahar, Dana and Ido (Photo: Aviram Hasson)
Sweet relationship: Ido's honey
•The beehive: About 15 years ago, the couple Dana and Ido Shahar established the boutique beehive "Ido's Honey" in Moshav Kalahim in the northwest of the Negev.
Their beehives are placed in the Negev region, the Jerusalem mountains and also in the Carmel region, in order to produce varietal honey.
Dana is responsible for raising the queens and marketing, Ido walks around the field and takes care of the hives.
Their little children apply stickers and make sure the honey turns out delicious.
•Honey: the apiary produces about 10-15 tons of honey per year: honey of ashlim, eucalyptus, avocado, wildflowers, thyme honey, jujube and citrus.
Most of the sales are made to customers located in the towns and cities close to the hive, and through group sales.
• The difficulties: "Climate change has a great impact on the honey crops," says Ido.
"For example, we have a certain area where in the past we used to take out 40-50 kg of honey per hive, but now 20 kg. The spring has become shorter, the winter is unpredictable with cold waves, and the summer is very harsh in terms of temperatures."
• Rosh Hashanah: "Already in June we started preparing for the holidays. We designed special packages, and came out with a special line of honey with lavender flowers."
Beekeeper Nega Reuven (Photo: Yael Shavit Communications)
In a female lead: the flowers of the Galilee
• The apiary: The "Flowers of the Galilee" apiary in Mitzpe Manot in the Western Galilee was established in 1995 by beekeeper Nega Reuven, 71, one of the few women in the industry.
There is also a visitor center with activities for the whole family and tastings of the various types of honey.
Reuven's hives are scattered in the Western Galilee, and together with two workers - with her being the one driving the truck - Reuven is always in the field.
• The honey: the apiary produces about 20 tons of honey a year from 11 different varieties, including avocado, wild flowers, clover, lychee, eucalyptus, fir and more.
Reuven markets the honey herself in health food stores throughout the country and also sells it at her apiary.
• The difficulties: "One of the difficulties is the weather. In addition to that, a very serious difficulty is agricultural terrorism experienced by some of the beekeepers," says Reuven.
"About two years ago in the late hours of the night, I found out that my beehive was completely burned down. After about a year I was able to restore it and reopened it on Rosh Hashanah last year with the help of a crowdfunding project, my friends, farmers and beekeepers from all over the country, volunteers from the HaShomer organization, and the 'Bat' association of Sheitat 13 graduates , friends of my late brother Yoav, who was killed as a naval fighter, in a raid on Green Island in 1969."
• Rosh Hashanah: "From the month of August, we started packing the honey for the holidays.
Many companies were interested in holiday gifts.
Of course, I'm also looking forward to the visitors who will come during the holidays."
Ophir family, Opir Farm (Photo: Ron Malol)
Family story: Mashek Ofir
• The apiary: Zvika Ofir, a second generation beekeeper in Israel, was a partner in the craft of raising bees in the family apiary founded by his father, Yishai Ofir, in Hogla in the Hefer Valley.
After his marriage to Hadas, Zvika asked his father for 100 hives for the establishment of the apiary branch in the new farm that they would establish in the settlement of Alon HaGilil in the Lower Galilee.
The apiary was established in 1985 and today there are about 800 hives spread from the orchards in Sharon to Shlomi in the Western Galilee.
Zvika and Hadas have four children, who are also involved in the work of the farm: Edva (36, manager of marketing, events and content of the farm), Noam (33, beekeeper and gardener), Dror (28, manages the summer activities on the farm), and Nitzan (25, helps on the farm).
Ophir Farm also has a visitor center, where the farm's agricultural produce, honey and wine are sold, and various activities are also held.
• The honey: the apiary produces about 25 tons of honey a year from nine varieties: carob, jujube, clover, citrus, avocado and four other wild flower honeys classified according to the grazing areas: Shlomi, Migdal, Kibbutz Kader and the Galilee oak.
The honey is marketed in the store in the visitor center and through the apiary's online store.
• The difficulties: "The biggest difficulty is thefts and a large loss of hives as a result of the 'Horoa' parasite, a pest that harms bees all over the world," says Tzvika.
Rosh Hashanah: "We have many interesting packages for the holidays: a 'honey tasting' package that includes three types of honey; a 'honey in a square' package of four types; and a package of a handmade ceramic mold for a honey cake along with jars of honey. We are also open every Tishri holiday For honey and wine tasting experiences, there is also an art exhibition," says Edva.
Beekeeper Shay Spector (Photo: Courtesy of the hive from Shay Spector)
The specialist in varieties: "The Beehive" from Shay Spector
•The apiary: In 1979 Shay Spector established his apiary in Petah Tikva, and in 1985 it moved to Kfar Ruth.
Today, his 3,000 beehives are spread all over the country, from Tsalim to the Hermon region.
• The honey: the apiary produces around 100 tons of honey per year, with a significant portion of it sold to one of the major honey markets.
Whereas the produce under his brand, "The Beehive" from Shai Spector, can be bought at the large honey store in Kfar Ruth or ordered through the online store.
Spector's specialty is the specialization in varietal honey from different regions of the country.
You can find many special varieties with him, such as spring eucalyptus, summer eucalyptus, thyme and lemon honey, sage and rhododendron honey, Golan elderberry honey, elderberry honey originating from the south, avocado honeys, citrus, mango and lychee, clover honey, carob, jujube, onion honey and more.
• The difficulties: "One of the most difficult problems is urbanization. On every corner that used to be an agricultural corner or a nature corner, houses are built and then the grazing areas are getting smaller and smaller. Nature is disappearing in the State of Israel," says Spector.
Rosh Hashanah: "During the year, our honey shop is only open on Fridays. Starting two weeks before the holiday, we open it from morning until evening. Among other things, there are very interesting tasting packages with 8-10 different types of honey. This is the honey holiday, an exciting holiday. Come to us from all over the country."