Israel Stories

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The Donkey

In the shadow of Samuels’s tomb we sat admiring the spectacular view obscured only by a donkey and two kids from a nearby village. We watched as these kids whipped and kicked the donkey, jumping on and off its back, the distressed groans from the poor animal making it all to clear he wasn’t happy. Even at, or especially at 14 I could sense the injustice and suffering caused by these kids. It was time for action. First shouting then fist waving. Resolutions were made; I would never cause harm or watch harm being done to another living being. It was my moral, religious and ethical duty. Two legs, four legs, six, eight or numerous, I was the protector of all living things.

But as the years went by spiders were crushed in tissues, ants were decapitated, cats were blasted with water and even the occasional lizard was executed. I am not proud of these crimes and should repent but since I am human I don’t feel the need. I suppose my warped sense of animal justice is that the wild is for them and the cities and towns for us. I would also like to point out, before I get the cat lovers letters again, that I would never intentionally out of malice or spite hurt an animal

But I still had this nagging memory of the donkey, it truly was very sad, reminded me of that sad depressed donkey, Eeyore.

So when I returned home from Bet Kenneset, last week the last thing I expected to see was a Donkey tethered to a lamp post outside my house. The kids were gabbling something about a donkey and I was conscious of drawing some very odd looks from passers by on my way home. I kept thinking why are the kids talking about donkeys and getting so excited?

And there he was, definitely male, standing in his breakfast, outside my house. The first thing I noticed was he was very exposed to the sun. The boys in the street who had ‘rescued’ him explained he couldn’t be moved until after Shabbat.

“Are you all mad, I am not having a donkey tied up outside my house for the rest of the day”. Visions of a dehydrated or even worse donkey came to mind. “It’s cruel, he needs shade.”

The boys protested about not moving him until after Shabbat. I had other ideas.

I knocked on their parent’s door.

“The donkey has to go, tell your kids they had no right tying up outside my house, its unhealthy and unclean and making a mess of the pavement.”

They just laughed and said they’re only boys. Then they closed the door in my face.

I grumbled something about Israeli parents and returned to the donkey.

“This donkey belongs to somebody, you have to let it go and maybe it will return home”.

“It’s a stray,” one of the boys shouted, “doesn’t belong to anybody.”

“Oh and I suppose it put its own bridal over its head, clever donkey.”

Enough was enough, I didn’t have the time, patience or Ivrit to carry on arguing with these boys. I marched towards the donkey, untied him, gave him a slap on the tuchos and sent him on his way.

End of story I thought. Nothing in life is ever that simple.

After lunch the donkey was back, tied to another house. By this time all the kids in the neighborhood were staring at it, like some alien being.

“If that donkey is still here in half an hour I am calling the police after Shabbat. You and all your friends will be arrested for causing harm to and stealing a donkey.”

That did the trick, they all jumped up and scattered. The donkey was led onto the road and ushered forward in the direction of the surrounding hills.

After Shabbat the donkey was back. This time it wasn’t the village kids jumping on its back, but locals. To say I lost my cool was an understatement. Even the donkey was startled, but relieved.

That evening the donkey was escorted out of Bet Shemesh back to his home somewhere in the hills.

As I said goodbye to the donkey I felt a strange warmth, mainly around my shoes.

So I returned home expressing my strong opinions about animals and especially donkeys.


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