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In The Land Of Shepherds:  Roasted Leg of Lamb

June 18, 2008
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This spring, a group of Bridges for Peace volunteers visited Neot Kedumim, a 600-acre nature park, where visitors are given “hands-on” opportunities to experience the lifestyle of Bible times. We were taken to a large, fenced-in meadow where sheep were grazing. The tour guide divided our group into two teams to see which team was better at herding sheep from one point to another within 10 minutes. The first team went down into the meadow, while the second watched from above. Of course, most of us had never tried such a feat. How do you get sheep to move? It would have been helpful if we’d done a little homework prior to our trip. Here are some interesting facts about sheep that I’ve learned since (facts vary with country and type of sheep):

1. The female is absolutely devoid of any means of defense. It is fear alone that makes sheep assemble into a troop when threatened. A ram, however, has been known to kill even a bull. The tamer they are, the less able they are to defend themselves.

2. Wherever they are, they remain obstinately fixed. To move the flock, the shepherd must get the lead sheep to move first by using a sheepdog, his rod to prod, or by physically pushing it. The flock then follows the lead sheep.

3. A young lamb, in the midst of numerous flocks, never fails to find its mother, and a mother also knows her offspring from all others.

4. They cannot travel long distances. When they run, they soon lose their breath. They are also sensitive to sun, moisture, frost, and snow, and are subject to many diseases. When very warm, they are apt to have vertigo, so are pastured with their heads turned from the sun.

5. A ram has been known to beget 100 lambs in one season and can mate with 20 to 30 ewes. A healthy ewe can produce lambs for 10 to 12 years, but usually only 7 to 8 years.

6. The age of a ram is known by the rings on his horns, a fresh ring for each year. Some sheep have no horns, while others have four to six.
7. A single shepherd, assisted by a dog, can manage up to 1,000 sheep in open country.

8. Sheep pastured by a seacoast produce the best mutton, and sheep are very fond of salt.

9. The fleece of sheep loosens from the skin in the beginning of summer and, if permitted, would fall of its own accord from its body. To prevent losing the wool, the farmer shears the sheep before the fleece loosens. Underneath this fleece is a new, short coat that protects the sheep from the cold. Before shearing was introduced, the wool was plucked by hand, which did not cause the sheep any pain.

For some of us, it’s hard to imagine the slaughter of such docile animals, but lamb is a very popular dish in Israel. In fact, I tasted my first lamb at a Passover seder meal here in Israel. If you’ve never tried it, why not start with this recipe.
—By Charleeda Sprinkle, Assistant Editor

Roasted Leg of Lamb

4 lbs. leg of lamb
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 cup water
1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 head of garlic
4 tbsp. crushed parsley

Pierce several holes into the meat, and insert a clove of garlic and some crushed parsley into each hole. Mix the remainder of the seasonings, then rub the meat thoroughly with the mixture. Place the meat on the rack of a roasting pan, add the water, cover, and bake at 325oF for two hours, basting frequently. Serves 6–8.

Reproduced from Cvia Rodin & Tibor S. Rodin, King Solomon’s Feast: Culinary Delights from the Cuisine of Biblical Israel.

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