Monday, December 27, 2004

From the Things My Shaliach Never Told Me file

As many of you know, many Israeli cities and towns have a cat-control problem. Jerusalem, for example, often feels overrun by streetcats. They live in dumpsters, duck under cars in the dead of night, scaring the bejeezus out of you, and have a particular penchant for mating just underneath my window while I'm trying to sleep.

I personally have a non-intervention policy regarding the cats, at least those in my neighborhood. I'm told that they eat the scorpions and whatever mice or rats would otherwise be sharing living quarters with us, and I'd rather have a cat-control problem than a rat-control problem. I also happen to think the ones who live in front of my building are cute, and have mentally named my favorite one Mikki. On the other hand, it bothers me when people leave food out for them. The food gets messy and just adds to the number of cats making noise under my window.

Sometimes Mikki and the others get bold, and I'll come home to discover one of them sitting directly in front of the building entrance, as if he's waiting. When I approach, he'll meow, and suddenly another cat will come leaping down from the second floor. They actually know to place a lookout! Unbelievable!

Anyhow, most streetcats around here not afraid of humans, but rather range from a "stay out of my way, and I'll stay out of yours" attitude to outright mean, nasty, hissing catness.

But every once in a while, there is some mutant kitty who is born with a love-the-humans gene. At my ulpan in Baka, one of the kittens- a completely gray little guy with one white paw- would stand in front of the gate every morning, like a sentry, so that no student could enter campus without passing him. During recess he'd walk among the students, meowing. Eventually someone started bringing him tuna fish, and by the end of the term one of the students had adopted him. He's probably living in Tel Aviv right now, snacking on kippers every day and thinking smugly about the home-boys he left behind in the Ulpan Etzion parking lot.

Anyhow, a few days ago I was heading toward the Bank Leumi on Chananya Street, just off of Emek Refaim, and this young black-and-white kitty leaps from behind a dumpster and starts following me and trying to paw at me. From my position at the bank's ATM, I could see her (him? I didn't check) doing the same to a group of soldiers, who stopped to stare at this over-friendly streetcat. She nuzzled her head against their shins and even tried to crawl up one of their legs. Later, she did the same to the guard in front of the Ne'eman Bakery, who said aloud "this cat is begging to be taken to a nice home."

When I left the bank, the cat was sitting on a low wall in front of the bakery, purring, while an older man was carefully patting and stroking her head. The man was disheveled; in New York I would have assumed that he's homeless. Perhaps he wasn't "all there," or perhaps he was very poor; in any case he clearly is living on the fringes of society. But he picked up this kitty and rocked her and talked to her, and the cat rolled around in his arms, loving the attention. Two lone souls in Jerusalem who just needed a little TLC, and got it from each other.

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