Israel Stories

Monday, April 30, 2007

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

If you know me you know I have a near pathological hatred of cats. It’s only since I came to Israel. In the UK cats are clean domesticated pets, but here they are anything but clean and domesticated and it baffles me how people can keep them as pets.

In my quest to prevent cats from using my garden as a breeding ground and toilet I have employed many methods from spraying pepper and lemon juice, using the garden hose (still the best method), and using electronic sensors that blow their eardrums inside out.

For a long time the cats stayed away, in fact it was almost a year until the new cats unwittingly encroached on my garden. It seems the cats come in waves. Every winter there is a mini cull and new cats come to take up arms.

So this year, after surfing the internet extensively and using just about every combination of the words cat, garden, eliminate, prevention, painless (actually that was a lie but I don’t want to offend animal lovers), repellent, safe (another lie) and pest, I found the perfect solution – lion poo!

Well it looked like the Lion of Zion was going to be my favorite. Used all over the world it is the perfect substance to scare animals off. One whiff of a predators scent and they’d never come back.

I saw the advert on the internet clicked and looked for a way to get a bag sent to Bet Shemesh. The instructions read that for orders outside of the US special permission had to be received from the Ministry of Agriculture or equivalent ministry in your country. Then a customs form had to be filled out in detail with a million and one check boxes with statements such as; I will not use lion poo as a food additive, I will not mix lion poo with any other substance and the best one, I will not substitute human feces if I intend on reselling the lion poo.

So I phoned the Ministry of Agriculture and explained what I wanted to do. The women on the other end was most unpleasant, cackled on about me being a lunatic and slammed the phone down on me. What a witch, I thought. Admittedly my Ivrit may not have fully explained my intentions correctly. I was subsequently told that I was lucky not to have been arrested after what I said, which, incidentally, will remain my secret.

Then I had a brainwave and after a brief rest I phoned Jerusalems Biblical Zoo and explained what I wanted. Apparently I was one of over 50 people all requesting lion poo since Pesach. Apparently the secret of lion poo was out the closet. Now there’s a business. My mind started ticking over. Three lions, three times three poos a day, must be a few kilos, dried and bagged, minus labeling and distribution, the letters TASE came to mind.

Unfortunately, for me and all my fellow lion poo seekers the zoo weren’t prepared to cooperate even after I explained the economics.

Despondent I returned home and readied the hose just in case. Then a gardener friend of mine happened to mention in passing that he had a mate who works in the zoo and might be able squeeze them, so to speak, for some lion poo if I really wanted it.

So now I have set everything in motion.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Fisherman

The surreal worlds that various cults through the ages have built for themselves have been the inspiration for numerous religions, films and cookbooks. According to the last UK national census there were more Jedi Knights then Jews, proving that there are more Jedi Knights than Jews in the UK, actually what it proves is that there are lot of over 30's in the UK.

The Dead sea housed many cults and organized religions, most famously the Essenes. When the Essenes set up monastery in Qumran they not only brought with them a new slant on Jewish literature, they not only inherited a view of the desert and the Dead Sea to die for (no pun intended) but they exported from Jerusalem the syndrome that affects so many of it visitors and inhabitants. You know the syndrome, the madness that overtakes normal straightforward gentlefolk and turns them into prophets, messiahs and kings. And lets face it on a practical level you’ve got to be one dragon short of an apocrypha to live in a cave by the Dead Sea.

So, on our decent to the Dead Sea it came as no surprise to be overtaken by a four by four with fishing rod strapped to the roof. Maybe it’s because I am constantly on the lookout for my next article that I have become more perceptive and sensitive to every oddity this country has to offer, but it took the other passengers in the car a good few seconds before they also registered, comprehended and appreciated the scale of weirdness seeing a fisherman heading for the Dead Sea.

In the end my wife decided that he was in fact on rout to Eilat and there was nothing weird or unusual to worry about.

“Whatever”, I retorted.

The next morning as I walked on to our balcony to survey the deep blue sea and red mountains I could hear from our 9th story room a very load male voice, nothing strange about that especially here. My eyes surveyed the sea once more and there on the waters edge was our intrepid four by four fisherman, holding his rod and tackle (thank you Benny Hill) trying to hire a boat from an unsuspecting tourist.

“I have traveled many miles from Jerusalem, I want a boat so that I may spread my nets over yonder blue waters (loses a lot in translation)”, he proclaimed in broken biblical Hebrew.

“I don’t speak Hebrew”, shouted the Scandinavian tourist and turned his back on the fisherman.

“Whatever”, the fisherman shouted back in English.

An hour later and we were by the pool, kids splashing around, the wife trying to read a book and me trying to hold it together with the old ‘kids and hotels don’t mix’ trial, when I heard a voice from the street below, “who will lend me transportation to the other side so that I may cast my nets and perchance eat a little before evening prayers?”

Sure enough our fisherman was still standing in the same spot. A largish Israeli approached him, poked his finger in the fisherman’s sternum and proceeded to try and explain in broken Hebrish how the Dead Sea was called Dead for a reason and if he would care to take a gulp of the water, might realize why there are no fish residing for miles and miles around for a very god reason.

The fisherman removed a book and began quoting how the Essene inhabitants not content with writing about dragons and making up their own Da Vinci codes were also vegetarians and only ate fish.

“From where, from where I ask you,” he yelled defiantly. “did they find fish? From the canyon, from the local store in Arad or maybe you think the birds dropped them from the heavens!”

“Well,” the Israeli yelled back, “They certainly didn’t pull them out of this sea.”

“Satan!” Cursed the fisherman.

“Whatever,” replied the Israeli and walked off.

The four by four fisherman turned on his heel and headed back to his car.

“They told me Eilat would be full of fish, they lied to me, lied, do you hear, lied” he shouted to no one in particular.

I listened slightly bewildered, then I heard a voice called from behind me whisper, “see I told you he was on rout to Eilat”.

“But the Essenes were here by the Dead Sea not in Eilat”, I answered.

“Go watch the kids” she ordered.

“Oh whatever”, I sighed.

Back to reality.