Chatoolim is the Hebrew word for cats. And, they’re everywhere here. What started as an idea (a terrible one) by the British to introduce them to eat rodents has created a massive cat population across the country. And, I might add, a massive cat culture (both human and cat, alike). The country’s couple of million feral cats can be found hiding in bushes, lounging on car roofs, waiting patiently underneath restaurant tables, enjoying food and water bowls in front of countless supermarkets and stores or simply climbing trees. And the most fortunate ones that are adopted can be found enjoying a more comfortable life indoors. Near my home, one extremely generous person has built a cat shelter with shade as well as large trays of food and water (see photo).
June, my dog, isn’t exactly sure about the cats. They’re not like squirrels or rabbits in the US that run away at the first sight of her or tease her in a game of chase. When cats see her they arch their backs, hiss and communicate: I’m not backing down (a very Israeli behavior). She generally walks away at this point. When she stuffs her nose in a bush to smell a cat, she is usually startled by the aggressive snarled response from the cat.
Such a defiant animal, whose population is hard to contain, (despite government sterilization programs), continue to be a mired in politics. One minister proposed exporting the nation’s cats (and opposes, based on Jewish law, the spaying or neutering animals). This was not received well by cat lovers, cat advocacy groups and other animal welfare activists (and included requests for the minister to be exported).
And while the cats are supposedly here because of the British, I did read a theory that the world’s 600 million cats descended from 5 matriarchs, one of whom was in the Israeli desert. Yes, even the cats are caught up in the nation’s politics and perhaps have outlived all of the region’s political rulers.