New Law Would Rein In ‘Free Range’ Camels

Camels. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

Two weeks after an Israeli driver was killed when his vehicle hit a camel crossing a highway near Mitzpe Ramon in southern Israel, the Knesset Economics Committee on Tuesday was discussing a long-dormant bill that would require camels to carry location devices and remain in specific areas. The law, proposed by MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home), was authored by him and the Regavim organization, a watchdog group that reports on illegal Arab building and activities throughout Israel.

The bill was approved on its first reading two years ago, but has remained on the shelf since then. Two weeks ago, 13-year-old Liel Almakayis was killed when the vehicle driven by his mother crashed into a camel that darted across the highway near their home in Mitzpe Ramon. His mother was badly hurt in the crash, and other family members, including his father and two siblings, ages 16 and 19, suffered varying degrees of injury. The vehicle the family was riding in flipped over when it hit the camel. A second vehicle, with four soldiers inside, also hit the camel and flipped over. The soldiers were lightly injured.

According to the Or Yarok road safety group, 15 people have been killed in the past decade in collisions with animals, almost all of them camels. Three hundred fifty people have been injured, more than 50 of them severely. According to Regavim, police between 2008 and 2015 received over 7,000 complaints and calls from drivers regarding camels on the road.

Commenting on the law, Smotrich said that besides requiring the use of technology to locate camels and to promote responsibility for the animals by their owners, the law will also impose criminal penalties for owners who allow their animals to roam in areas they are not supposed to go. “After a few camel owners are fined or sent to jail, camel owners will certainly be much more careful in handling their animals and preventing them from roaming the highways. I will be watching this issue closely to ensure that this law is enforced, after it is passed by the Knesset,” Smotrich added.

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