Dipping his apple in honey this Rosh Hashana will have a special meaning for Southern California Iranian Jewish businessman Izak Kharrazi who will also mark his 30th year in the unique and challenging bee removal business.
Affectionately known as the ‘bee man’ by his clients that include celebrities like Tom Hanks, Elizabeth Taylor, and Charlize Theron, Kharrazi has made a name for himself and his “All Valley Honey and Bee” company over years. His unusual profession has also been turning heads in the Iranian Jewish community.
“Once I found the bee business I set my mind to it and the more people joked around about it, the more it got under my skin to make it a success and it has become a success,” said Kharrazi, who immigrated to the U.S. as a teenager in the 1970’s.
Success is an understatement for Kharrazi who said he is typically bombarded with more than 150 telephone calls everyday for his services and his 25 employees still have difficulty working around the clock meet fulfill their clients’ needs. His accomplishments are remarkable since Kharrazi single-handedly began this business as a bee novice at the tender age of 17 out of his home garage.
“I learned about this business the hard way at the Grandize Bardin Jewish summer camp in Santa Barbara when I was 15 and my boss basically dared me to remove a bee hive from one of the buildings,” said Kharrazi. “I covered up real well and removed the hive but got stung 30 or 40 times, later on I read about bees and how to handle them”.
While collected honey from his own bee hives during the High Holiday, Kharrazi said he stopped in 1986 because the endeavor was too costly and the hives he had placed in different locations were repeatedly destroyed by vandals.
“During Rosh Hashana I would always give the honey to my relatives but it was just too much work for too little profit,” said Kharrazi. “It’s a risky business if someone trespasses on the property and gets attacked by the bees because you are liable”.
Nevertheless, the bee removal end of his business has thrived as Southern California’s climate has been ideal for bees to breed. Typically family of 10,000 bees triples in one year if not eradicated, said Kharrazi.
Moussa, Kharrazi’s father, said his son’s career choice has surprised many Iranian Jews in their community that has countless doctors, lawyers, and real estate developers.
“In Iran we never had this type of bee business and there really wasn’t a need for bee removal there like it is here,” said Moussa in his native Persian language. “People tell me it is a very unique business and ask me what his job entails because they’ve never heard of anyone doing what my son does”.
Despite the often dangerous aspects of his business that require removing bees from high structures, Kharrazi said still receives great satisfaction when he arrives at a job site to meet a client.
“You know this is the only job where people are actually happy and grateful to see you when you get their because these bees have infested their living space or business,” said Kharrazi. “To me, that’s great feeling to know I am helping them”.
Karmel Melamed is an internationally published freelance journalist based in Southern California
This portions of this article were originally published in The Forward newspaper: