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Apocalyptic fears spread in Israel as plague of locusts descends near Passover

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 7th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In an eerie instance of bad timing, a swarm of locusts has spilled into Israel, across the border from Egypt. There are fears that the country could be plagued by the insects over the forthcoming Passover holiday. The swarm of an estimated 30 million insects had been devastating Egyptian crops.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - A much smaller swarm of one million locusts has crossed the border into Israel. The country's Agriculture Ministry has sent out planes to spray pesticides over agricultural fields this week to prevent damage by the locusts and set up an emergency hotline and asked Israelis to report sightings.

Officials say the insects covered nearly 2,000 acres of desert overnight.
 
Israel sprayed pesticides from the air and land to try to kill them in the early morning before dew on their wings dried and they could take off again.

Director of Plant Protection in the Agriculture Ministry Miriam Freund called it a "medium-sized swarm" and her office set up a hotline for farmers to call in case they see it advance.

"We hope our actions are effective," one of the pilots of a plane spraying the fields said on Army Radio. "Let's hope the damage will be minimal."

Sightings of the locusts have been reported elsewhere.

There is a feeling of dread surrounding the insects of Old Testament judgment, as they come at a most inopportune time. The week long Passover festival, which recounts the biblical story of the Israelite exodus from Egypt is scheduled to begin March 25.

A huge swarm of locusts was the eighth of 10 plagues God imposed on Egyptians to persuade Pharaoh to free the ancient Hebrews from slavery. Pharaoh did not agree to let them go until after the 10th plague, the death of the first born in every Egyptian family.

Egyptian Agriculture ministers assure the public that  the locusts pass through their country as part of their normal  migration from north east Sudan to Saudi Arabia, emphasizing that Egypt was just "a transfer station" for the locusts, which were in larger numbers this year.

In a statement from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the infestation was described as an "immature swarm" which "appeared in the afternoon (on March 2) in the eastern Cairo districts of New Cairo and Mokattam and dispersed into several smaller swarmlets.

"The locusts originated from breeding that has been in progress since November in southeast Egypt between Berenice and the Sudanese border.

"As vegetation dried out, small groups and swarms of immature adults moved slowly north along the Red Sea coast, reaching Marsa Alam on 8 February, Hurghada on the 16th and Zafarana on the 26th."

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