(Photo: Vatican Media)

(Photo: Vatican Media)

By Abigail Klein Leichman - June 6, 2019

Israeli, Jordanian, Palestinian and Swiss bird experts recently traveled to the Vatican to discuss their successful cross-border project using barn owls for biological pest control.

The project eliminates the use of toxic pesticides in agriculture and has promoted cooperation among Jewish and Muslim farmers.

“The meeting with Pope Francis was an extraordinary experience,” reported Tel Aviv University Prof. Yossi Leshem, the Israeli ornithologist who spearheaded the project in 1983 at Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu, with the first installment of 14 nesting boxes.

“The Pope moved us with the simplicity of his manners, his informal communication, his intelligence, and his tremendous excitement for the protection of biodiversity and his interest in the protection of Earth, which he characterize as God’s creation and the duty of every believer to protect and save from extinction.”

In 2002, Leshem expanded the barn-owl project to farms in nearby Jordan and Palestinian Authority territories. It became a national initiative in 2008 in cooperation with the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the governmental ministries of Agriculture, Environmental Protection and Regional Cooperation.

Read More: Israel21c