Birds far outnumber humans, but humans have the guns
GAZA, Palestine; TEL AVIV, Israel––As many as 500 million birds per year, of approximately 250 species, migrate over Gaza each year, including most of the storks in the world, seasonally moving among Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Hundreds of thousands of birds are on the wing over Gaza right now. Dense flocks may pose a more serious threat to Israeli aircraft than Hamas gunfire.
Unlike the birds, who fan out across three continents, Palestinian civilians trapped in Gaza have almost nowhere to go.
Jesus described the situation
As Jesus put it, ““Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Many and perhaps most north Gazans appear to be trying to wait out the warfare where they are, despite repeated warnings from the Israeli Defense Forces to flee south across the Wadi Gaza river, which is actually more a muddy ditch, ahead of an Israeli invasion imminently anticipated for at least a week.
The invasion has been expected, and presaged by intensive bombing, ever since Hamas fighters from Gaza on October 7, 2023 massacred about 1,300 Israelis and foreign visitors on kibbutz collective farms and at an open-air concert, many of them attacked as they slept.
Moving south beneath migrations
About 400,000 Gazans have heeded the warnings and moved south, beneath the fall bird migrations.
Southern Gaza, however, like northern Gaza, is already suffering critical food and water shortages, despite having on October 21, 2021 at last received food and water sufficient to serve perhaps 22,000 people from a United Nations truck convoy, with more deliveries expected in the coming days.
Approximately 1.5 million people are now crammed into southern Gaza. The migratory birds are probably not landing, due to the human presence and frequent explosions, but current bird sighting news appears to be going unreported due to lack of electricity and internet connections.
Birds heavily hunted & trapped
Historically, birds have been heavily hunted and trapped in Gaza, for food, sport, and because some species, especially feral parakeets, are easily sold into the pet trade.
In recent years, however, several Gaza bird hunters per year have been shot dead by Israel snipers after wandering into the Gaza no-man’s-land with weapons and bags suspected of containing explosives.
Only about 2,000 Israelis buy hunting licenses each year. Fifty-one bird species are protected from hunting in Israel. Storks are doubly protected because the 11th century Spanish rabbi Jacob ben Asher gradually persuaded fellow rabbis throughout Europe that storks are the species called khasida on the list of 20 non-kosher birds in the Torah.
“You are in a dangerous place”
As the Israeli Defense Force continues to bomb some southern Gaza targets, genuinely safe places to dwell even within the “safe” zone are scarce for either residents or refugees.
The Israeli military on October 21, 2023 reportedly “rained red leaflets on neighborhoods” and spammed social media with a message reading “Urgent warning! To the residents of Gaza: your presence to the north of Wadi Gaza is putting your lives at risk. Anyone who chooses not to evacuate from the North of the Gaza Strip to the South of the Gaza Strip may be identified as a partner in a terrorist organization.”
“The essence that we are telling civilians is, you are in a dangerous place,” Israeli Defense Force Lieutenant Colonel Jonathan Conricus told MSNBC. “We don’t want to label anybody a terrorist. But people who stay in northern Gaza are endangering their own lives. Therefore, if you want to be safer, go south. Do not listen to Hamas. Don’t be a pawn in their game of keeping human shields. Go south, and be safer.”
“Even the sheep are refugees”
How many Gazans are listening?
“Even the sheep are refugees. Many new refugees are coming from the north,” the Gaza organization Sulala Animal Rescue posted to Facebook, with video showing flocks of sheep trotting south.
There, amid the food scarcity, many of the sheep are likely to soon be slaughtered and butchered. They might have been safer in the currently less populated north.
But the sheep might not have been safer in Israel, where members of the fanatical Hazrim Lahar [“Return to the Mount”] Hassidic religious sect have been trying since April to sacrifice a sheep or goat at the Muslim-held Temple Mount site in East Jerusalem, offering cash rewards for members who are arrested making the attempt. The rewards increase depending on how far the members get up the mountain in possession of a sheep or goat.
The sheep or goat sacrifice would be to fulfill a prophecy about the restoration of the temple that was the center of Jewish worship before the Diaspora (the forced exodus of Jews from Israel circa 70 A.D. after an unsuccessful rebellion against Roman rule).
Hazrim Lahar holds that “There is no more room for Muslim rule on the Temple Mount. It is time to build a Jewish temple and renew the sacrificial works,” according to All Israel News.
Sulala Animal Rescue
Founded in 2006 by Saeed Al Err, 50, and his wife Sally, Sulala Animal Rescue is the only animal protection organization incorporated within Gaza.
“Tell anybody in Gaza who wants to feed cats or dogs to get in touch with us. We can help them. Today we gave animal food to five different persons,” Saeed Al Err said.
Err and family relocated from north Gaza to relative safety, with as many as 400 dogs and 130 cats, soon after the first Israeli warning to move south.
Sulala Animal Rescue has subsequently relocated some of the dogs several times, trying to keep them out of harm’s way.
“In an area that should be safe but isn’t”
“When the plane flies over and right before it’s about to drop the bomb,” Saeed Al Err observed on October 18, 2023, “the sound changes. Then there is the sound of the bomb falling and the explosion. When the sound of the plane changes, everybody is scared the bomb will drop on them. Dogs have this too. They know very well when the bomb is about to drop, maybe better than humans. So like humans they are terrified and they start squealing when they hear the sound of planes.
“The dogs are in an area that should be safe, but it isn’t,” Saeed Al Err continued. “Gaza is under such heavy bombardments, several places right next to each other are being hit. We truly hope we will survive this and the animals will come out unharmed.”
“This dog came to hide”
Two days later, Saeed Al Err posted to Facebook, with a brief video clip, “There were huge explosions and this dog came to hide under the stairs that lead to the entrance of our house. She was terrified. So we fed her and tried to comfort her. There are thousands of terrified animals in Gaza. They hide and when things calm down for a bit and we can give them some food.”
As difficult as the situation is for Sulala Animal Rescue, scammers are making it worse.
“The amount of shelters and rescues in Gaza on social media right now!” fumed a Sulala Animal Rescue meme posted on October 21, 2023.
“If there were actually this many shelters in Gaza, our work would have been a lot easier! If you want your money to be used to help animals, please Google shelters or even persons before donating. Anyone can take a picture with a cat, make a PayPal and ask for money,” the meme reminded.
“Even before Saeed managed to establish the shelters,” the meme finished, “there were newspaper articles about him because he went above and beyond to help animals.”
Israeli Bat Sanctuary rescues birds
On the Israeli side of the Gaza boundary wall, Israeli Bat Sanctuary founder Nora Lifschitz continues to make daily rescue missions into the evacuated kibbutzes near Gaza, many of whose residents, both animal and human, were shot, knifed, or burned on October 7, 2023.
“So far Nora has rescued about 140 animals of all kinds,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary recounted on October 21, 2023. “For the vast majority of them we located the owners, and for all those who temporarily could not be reunited with the owners, we found a place to stay for now.
“Yesterday,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary continued, “Nora returned with 20 budgies, six love birds, five cockatiels, and 25 pigeons, all from one residence in Kerem Shalom,” a kibbutz abutting the no-man’s-land on the Israeli side of the Gaza boundary fence that was among the first to be attacked by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023.
Israeli Primate Sanctuary houses displaced birds
“The amazing Israeli Primate Sanctuary volunteered to host the birds––these are not the only animals from the warzone they took in!––because they are wonderful,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary testified. “Day to day they do amazing work in rescuing and giving a forever home for primates from labs, privately held, and zoos.”
Located near Kfar Daniel, among the outer Tel Aviv suburbs, the Israeli Primate Sanctuary closed to visitors on October 8, 2023, and refocused on helping animals displaced by the terrorist attacks, at cost to donations, which come mainly from visitors.
The ongoing Israeli Bat Sanctuary rescue missions were only briefly interrupted when Nora Lifschitz’s car broke down on October 15, 2023.
“Nora’s car is the heart”?
“Nora’s car was finally towed to the garage and a basic repair was done,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary posted, “but its condition is not great. In fact, it wasn’t great even before driving on the rough roads down south. It’s way too old for the intense life in the service of the sanctuary.”
Donations in response to an Israeli Bat Sanctuary appeal for help with transportation, however, “brought us very close to the possibility of buying a better used car. Nora’s car is the heart of the sanctuary’s activity,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary said, though others testify that Nora Lifschitz herself is.
Let The Animals Live
Let The Animals Live, the biggest Israeli animal charity, headquartered in Kfar Ruth near Tel Aviv, also continues to send vehicles “loaded with dog and cat food and a team of vets and rescuers” to the evacuated kibbutzes to help animals left behind.
“We have distributed tons of food and rescued many animals,” Let The Animals Live updated on October 20, 2023, “some of whom have already been reunited with their owners who were rescued from the ordeal.
“Some have arrived at our shelter in Kfar Ruth. Animals that were found injured are being treated in our clinics and veterinary hospitals.
“The work is far from over and we are determined not to leave the animals to their fate in such difficult times,” Let The Animals Live said.
Brothers & Sisters In Arms
Let The Animals Live has from the beginning of the crisis assisted Brothers & Sisters In Arms, formed as a peace organization by Israeli military veterans.
“Two days after the Hamas attacks,” according to Assiya Hamza of France 24, Brothers & Sisters Arms set up an animal rescue program, because, a volunteer told her, “We started getting calls from the army. The army was finding dogs, cats, sometimes other animals, and they were rescuing them and they didn’t know where to bring them. So, we started this organization to receive animals from the field and take care of them.”
The volunteer mentioned “a story they heard about a soldier entering a home where a whole family was found dead after a grenade exploded. Only the dog had survived. The soldier had a chest injury, but still rescued the dog.
“He took the dog to an animal hospital in central Israel and then went to the hospital himself. This is the type of wonderful soldiers and wonderful people that we have here,” the volunteer said.