Bee shortfall raises honey prices

For Julien Bohbot, honey prices are no small matter. 

The Moroccan-born owner of Pico-Robertson’s kosher Delice Bakery says he uses about 150 pounds of honey for Rosh Hashanah sales — almost all of it in honey cake. In fact, about 90 percent of the honey he uses throughout the year is for the Jewish New Year.

Bohbot says that over the last several years, honey prices have consistently increased. A recent purchase of 25 pounds of the sweet stuff, Bohbot told the Journal, cost him $300 — his “most expensive” honey purchase per pound since he opened Delice in 2001.

But honey is not the only ingredient that’s hitting bakeries like Delice. 

“Everything from almond meal to flour to anything is up,” Bohbot said. 

That Bohbot mentioned almond meal and honey as two examples is no coincidence. The sweet, ground nuts that make up almond meal depend on honeybees pollinating almond trees. And with honeybees dying off due to what scientists call “colony collapse disorder” (CCD), consumers can expect to continue to see increasing prices of honey and perhaps even of some of the fruits and vegetables whose growth depends on pollination.

CCD refers to the decimation of an estimated 10 million beehives in America — worth $2 billion — since the winter of 2006.  According to a Time magazine Aug. 19 cover story, “The Plight of the Honeybee,” this year California’s almond farmers barely had enough honeybees to pollinate almonds, a market worth nearly $4 billion. Grown in the Central Valley, almonds are California’s most valuable agricultural export. 

The possible consequences of CCD are vast. Honeybees save farmers untold amounts of time and money. When honeybees, in their search for nectar, inadvertently carry pollen from plant to plant, they are doing what farmers would have to do by hand if not for the bee — pollinate plants that grow fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, cherries and lettuce. 

Many beekeepers and scientists point to neonicotinoids, a relatively new class of pesticide, as a possible culprit for the bee die-off. The Agricultural Research Service, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, says on its Web site that it has yet to pinpoint any specific cause. It is also looking into such things as the effects of pathogens, parasites and environmental stressors.

When a beekeeper opens up a hive hit by CCD, the honey will often be safely stored in the honeycomb, ready for extraction, but nearly every bee will be missing.

According to Harry Stein, a beekeeper who lives in Canoga Park, bees flee a hive when they detect an infection. Stein’s theory is that agricultural pesticides like neonicotinoids make bees’ immune systems more susceptible to diseases like varroatosis, which is caused by varroa mites and has been found in many bee-less hives.

Stein, 70, has been working with bees for 50 years. He currently keeps 120 hives and sells Harry’s Honey at local farmers markets. He said that his hives used to suffer from CCD but that he moved them to a location free of chemicals, like pesticides.

“Thank goodness, my bees are doing fine,” Stein said. “I keep them in areas that aren’t sprayed by man.”

Susie Lamey, the office manager of Bennett’s Honey Farm in Fillmore, said that honey prices have increased by 20 percent in the last year. The reason? The supply of bees, and thus the supply of honey, has dropped, she said. 

“Beekeepers are having a hard time keeping their colonies alive,” Lamey said. “We pay the beekeepers 20 percent more for their honey, and we have to, in turn, increase our price on retail sales.

“The bees are dying off, and with bees dying off it means the production of your honey is less,” she said. 

According to numbers from the National Honey Board — a research and promotion board under USDA oversight — since January 2006, the price per pound of honey has increased from $3.88 to $5.97, nearly 54 percent, far outpacing the rate of inflation (16 percent) over that period.

The American Bee Journal, the oldest English language beekeeping publication in the world, wrote in its August bulletin that honey’s record prices won’t be dropping anytime soon, “especially if consumer and industrial demand for honey continues to be strong.”

Lamey said that in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah, sales of Bennett’s honey, which is certified kosher by the Rabbinical Council of California, always increase. 

At Delice Bakery, Bohbot said that leading up to the New Year, he gives away mini versions of his honey cake to all customers — even with the new normal of high honey prices. (He estimates his honey bill has gone up at least 50 percent over the last seven years.)

“It’s crazy — every year.”

Moroccan police arrest would-be terrorists

Moroccan security police arrested 11 men who reportedly planned to carry out terrorist attacks at Jewish and tourist sites in the country.

The four Palestinians and seven Moroccans, reportedly a cell of Islamic Jihad, were arrested Monday, according to the Berlin-based International Institute for Education and Research on Anti-Semitism, which cited the Moroccan newspaper Al Ahdath Al Maghrebia.

Targets reportedly included tourist sites, as well as Jewish and pro-Israel activists.

Early last month, an e-mail with photos of Jewish NGO activists circulated among Islamists in Morocco, according to the institute.

A blacklist of “Zionists” also was circulated last week at a preparation meeting for an Islamist conference scheduled for Friday called the National Observatory against Normalization (with Israel). The list included at least one government employee, journalists, NGO activists, artists and politicians, the institute reported.

Calendar Girls Picks and Clicks for September 13-18: When Ladino met klezmer, Torah Slam, a lawerlyy


The City of Los Angeles and Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sponsor an annual emergency preparedness fair as part of the Great Southern California ShakeOut: Are You Prepared? The fair seeks to educate Angelenos on the importance of being prepared for disasters, natural or manmade, such as earthquakes and riots. Activities will include live safety demonstrations, disaster preparedness exhibits and interactive programming for children. Sat. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Free. Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. Also, Sept. 20 and Sept. 27 (different locations). (213) 978-2222. ” target=”_blank”>

” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = left border = 0>is perhaps nothing he enjoys more than writing about religion. Today, Kirsch will discuss his latest book, “The Grand Inquisitor’s Manual: A History of Terror in the Name of God,” which explores persecution and violence in the name of righteousness. Sat. 2 p.m. Free. Barnes & Noble, 1201 Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica. (310) 260-9110. ” target=”_blank”>

We live in a city where summer continues well into December and so do the pool parties, picnics and barbecues that the rest of the country bid farewell to after Labor Day. Taking advantage of our unique environs, Jewish Singles Meeting Place, for singles in their 40s and 50s, is inviting you to a Gourmet Western BBQ Party at a home in Sylmar. Be sure to R.S.V.P. before noon on the day of the event. Sat. 8 p.m. $12. Sylmar. (818) 750-0095.


In addition to facing paralyzing fear, families of children with cancer have to deal with financial hardships, emotional and mental strain and the difficulty of keeping a family intact. Larger Than Life offers aid to families in Israel who are struggling through just such a crisis. Larger Than Life’s annual gala in Los Angeles ” target=”_blank”>

Learn about klezmer and Ladino music, enjoy brunch and receive a free pass to the Autry National Center, all at the “Klezmer-Ladino Convergence.” ” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = right>, which was founded by singer, scholar and ” target=”_blank”>

The Von der Ahe Library at Loyola Marimount University is hosting a five-part reading and discussion series. In “Let’s Talk About It: Jewish Literature, Identity and Imagination,” theology professor Saba Soomekh, who has written several essays about California’s Persian Jewish community, will lead the book-based discussions on the theme “Neighbors: The World Next Door.” Books discussed will include “Journey to the Millennium” by A.B. Yehoshua, “Red Cavalry” by Isaac Babel and “Mona in the Promised Land” by Jen Gish. Sun. 2 p.m. Through Dec. 7. Free. Collins Faculty Center at Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles. (310) 338-4584. ” target=”_blank”>

The man known as the “Yiddish Indiana Jones,” Yale Strom, and his band Hot Pstromi, will ensure that “Angels & Dybbuks: The First L.A. Klez Fest” is an event to remember. Strom delves into all that is Yiddish, whether it’s music, books, film, theater or photography. Strom will also offer workshops on klezmer instruments and history. Sun. Events begin at noon. $20-$80. McCabe’s Guitar Shop, 3101 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica. (310) 828-4497.


A pudgy toddler whose cheeks are delightfully doughy may be cute, but a plump preteen could turn into an obese adult with myriad health problems. Educate yourself about the dangers of pediatric obesity at the Children’s Health Forum, which is sponsored by the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Center. Professor Ronald Nagel, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and professor Francis Mimouni, chair of the department of pediatrics, will speak. Kosher lunch will be served. Mon. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. $50 (requested donation). Luxe Hotel, 11461 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 229-0915.


Everyone is invited to Los Angeles’ first cross-denominational public Torah study. With the High Holy Days coming up, The Journal decided to get everybody together for a “Torah Slam,” ” vspace = 8 hspace = 8 align = right>a knock-your-socks-off Torah study with five great rabbis: Elazar Muskin (Orthodox), Ed Feinstein (Conservative), Mordecai Finley (Reform/Chasidic), Haim


Jordan Elgrably’s resume reveals that he’s had a prolific career as a Sephardic writer and activist. Tonight he speaks about his personal journey as an American with roots in multicultural Morocco in “The Loquat Tree, or the Art of Being an Arab Jew.” His audiovisual presentation is sure to be moving, funny and insightful. Wed. 6 p.m. Free. Los Angeles Public Library, Robertson Branch, 1719 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 657-5511. ” target=”_blank”>


Good cause. Unlimited alcohol. Cold, hard cash prizes. So, come get some chips at the fifth annual No-Limit Texas Hold-‘Em Poker Event benefiting Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles’ mentoring programs, which help children reach for their dreams. Thu. 6:30 p.m. (lessons), 7:30 p.m. (tournament). $200 (advance), $230 (door). Hollywood Park Casino, 3883 West Century Blvd., Second Floor, Inglewood. (323) 456-1159. ” target=”_blank”>

Tikkun olam is a monumental Jewish value. Jewish teens can get involved with the Friendship Circle, an organization that supports children and young adults with special needs. The Friendship Circle Teen Volunteer Open House offers a chance to learn about the organization’s many volunteer opportunities. Thu. 8 p.m. Free. Friendship Circle, 9581 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 277-3252.

Henna party adds colorful touch to the happy couple

Sareet Rimon grew up knowing she wanted to have a henna party when she got married. For the local singer it meant carrying on a Moroccan tradition that had been honored by her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.

“This is such a beautiful and spiritual ceremony and has such a deep meaning,” she said. “The henna ceremony is supposed to bring good luck to the new couple. Every one in my family has done it, and one day I hope to do it for my children as well.”

Since Sareet and her husband-to-be, Adam, planned to marry in Israel, they wanted to celebrate beforehand in Los Angeles with friends who would not be able to attend the wedding. The bride-to-be hired a henna party planner and sent out invitations to 300 people for an opulent event at the Biltmore Hotel.

Sareet and Adam each chose three different outfits made of silk and velvet, some featuring gold embroidery, which they would change into at different points during the course of the evening. The bride even entered the ballroom in a hand-carried silver carriage.

Sareet admits she felt like royalty that night. “I felt like a queen,” she said.

The henna ceremony, once celebrated primarily by Jews from Morocco and Yemen, has grown in popularity in Israel. And now increasing numbers of young Sephardi and Ashkenazi brides in the United States are honoring this colorful practice.

The ceremony is performed about a week before the wedding and symbolizes the bittersweet separation of the young bride from her family.

Leaves of the henna plant are crushed into a powder, which, when mixed with water, becomes a dough that will stain a person’s skin orange for about two to three weeks if left on for two hours or more (other colors are achieved by mixing in leaves or fruits from other plants).

Known as mehndi in India, the practice dates back to at least 2000 B.C.E., and its use in ceremonies can be found from South Asia to North Africa. In India and other countries, henna is arranged in intricate lacey or floral patterns on the hands or feet, which can mean good health, fertility, wisdom, protection or spiritual enlightenment.

The henna ceremony is a purely cultural celebration and has no religious significance for Jews, said Yona Sabar, a UCLA Hebrew professor.

“Its purpose was to drive away the demons by disguising the bride and groom with the henna,” he said.

Moroccan Israeli singer Claude Afota, who performs at local henna ceremonies, said that the Jews in Arab countries adopted this ceremony from their Muslim neighbors.

“Back home in Morocco, everybody used to do a henna before a wedding or even a bar mitzvah,” he said. “When I immigrated to Israel, it was not as popular as it is today. Only Moroccan families used to have this ceremony as well as Yemen Jews. Nowadays, it seems that everybody is celebrating it.”

After Judith Bloomental was invited to several henna parties, she was inspired to start her own business,

In Search of ‘Shlomi’

Shlomi, the 16-year-old protagonist of the Israeli film, “Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi,” has his hands full.

He cooks the family meals, cleans up, does the laundry, is the peacemaker in his quarrelsome Moroccan family and bathes his grandfather, who greets him every morning with the film’s title.

For his pains, the wide-eyed Shlomi is considered none too bright by his family and in school, where he is flunking out.

Worse, Shlomi believes the outside world’s assessment of him, which seems to be confirmed by his first attempt at romance. When he suggests to his girlfriend that they “upgrade” their relationship — Hebrew slang for having sex — she “freezes” him out.

At home, the situation is even worse. His obsessive mother has kicked out her hypochondriac husband for a one-time slip with her best friend. Shlomi’s older brother is the mother’s favorite, and she regales the boy with clinical details of his real and fancied sexual conquests.

Shlomi’s older sister has twin babies but regularly returns to her mother’s home to detail her fights with her husband, who shamefully surfs the Internet for porn.

It all looks like another story of another dysfunctional family, a recurring theme in Israeli movies, when Shlomi’s life slowly turns around.

A perceptive teacher and school principal gradually peel away Shlomi’s layers of self-doubt and discover an exceptional mind and poetic sensibility.

A neighboring girl recognizes Shlomi’s real inner worth, and in a beautiful scene they shyly offer each other their finest gifts — she, the herbs she grows in her garden, and he, the diet-defying cakes he bakes in the kitchen.

The film’s theme is “the pain created by the gap between one’s outer image and the inner truth,” said Shemi Zarhin, the film’s director, himself of North African descent.

“Monsieur Shlomi” is a charming film, a word rarely applied to Israeli movies. Oshri Cohen portrays Shlomi with absolute veracity and his relationship with his grandfather (Arie Elias) is deeply affecting.

As a special bonus, Ashkenazic viewers will get a much-needed insight into the lifestyle of Israel’s Sephardic Jews. Although director Zarhin’s ancestors came to Palestine nearly 300 years ago, “both I and Oshri grew up with the mindset that we were part of Israel’s underclass,” he said.

“Bonjour, Monsieur Shlomi” opens July 16 in Los Angeles.