Nora Lifschitz, Ilan Ben Avraham, Saeed Al Err & family, et al
TEL AVIV, Israel; GAZA, Palestine––Israeli Bat Sanctuary founder Nora Lifschitz is emerging as an Israeli national heroine for her now nearly 200 all-species animal rescues from the massacred kibbutz collective farms just outside Gaza.
Let the Animals Live, the largest Israel animal rescue organization, is in mourning for Ilan Ben Avraham, a dog adopter and friend of the Let the Animals Live shelters in Kfar Ruth and Ashkelon, kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on October 7, 2023, now found dead.
Sulala Animal Rescue, the only incorporated nonprofit animal charity on the Palestinian side of the Gaza border, is just trying to stay alive, with about 400 animals and 130 cats, also helping other animals trapped in the war zone.
Ilan Ben Avraham founded New York Dog Lovers
“With a broken heart, we have been informed that Ilan Avraham was one of the victims of the murderous terrorist attack, and did not survive,” Let The Animals Live posted to Facebook on October 24, 2023.
“Ilan and his wife Ayala adopted Oliver from us and entered our hearts,” Let The Animals Live said.
“Ilan, with his wife Ayala and another friend, fled and found a small shelter to hide in,” Let The Animals Live explained, “with a group of terrorists closing in on them, shooting at them and demanding they come out.
“Ilan sacrificed himself”
“Ilan sacrificed himself and stepped out so that the terrorists take him captive.”
He was not again seen alive.
Ilan Ben Avraham, 70, a dual U.S./Israel citizen, and an attorney specializing in corporate law, listed third on his LinkedIn profile that he was founder of the Facebook page New York Dog Lovers.
This Facebook page is self-described as “a place where we can go to share pics and videos, tips about vets, food choices, training methods, and anything else related to dogs.”
Even evacuation did not guarantee safety
Sulala Animal Rescue lost employee, Loay Rami Al Wadi, 19, under unknown circumstances on the second day of fighting.
But Sulala Animal Rescue founder Saeed Al Err, 50, his wife Sally, and their adult sons have had little time for mourning,
Saeed Al Err and family, operating Sulala Animal Rescue since 2006 on five acres in northern Gaza, evacuated to Nuseirat, on the south side of the Wadi Gaza river, with as many as 400 dogs and 130 cats, soon after the Israeli military warned Gazans to move south ahead of intensified bombing and an anticipated ground invasion.
Even that was not enough to keep Sulala Animal Rescue entirely safe.
“Nothing remains in its place”
Posted Saeed Al Err’s son Sa’ed from Nuseirat on October 22, 2023, with a brief video clip, assisted by a Belgian volunteer, “What you see here is my humble home. Nothing remains in its place. The entire city has been destroyed; my house became unfit for living. Me and the people of my city had a terrible night that cannot be described.
“I went to evacuate the dogs. I was unable to move Lucy,” a disabled dog. “The shells passed over my head, and I was hit by stones and shrapnel,” Sa’ed recounted.
“I eventually got all the dogs in a safe place inside the house. [The dog] Jack suffered an injury to his leg.
“Our beautiful city became a ghost town”
“On the morning after the bombing,” on October 19, 2023, Sa’ed continued, “I went for a walk in the area. [The dogs] Jack, Speed and Max followed. The rest of the dogs stayed in the house, terrified.
“Our beautiful city,” a description actually rarely applied to any part of Gaza, “became a ghost town.”
Though it may not have been objectively beautiful, it was home to Sa’ed.
Sa’ed “was trying to keep 30 dogs safe there,” the Belgian volunteer explained.
“Today none of the animals were harmed”
A day later, Saeed Al Err updated through the Belgian volunteer, “Today none of the animals in the shelters were harmed.
“The dogs that we took to a place we thought would be safer, and then the surrounding buildings were bombed, went back to the [original Sulala Animal Rescue] shelter independently! Our employee Adel who lives close to the shelter and goes to feed the dogs every day confirmed this.
“We saw a cat with a wounded leg in the street, drinking water off the street. We gave her food, and once she is less scared of us,” Saeed Al Err said, “we will be able to pick her up and treat her.”
Observed the Belgian volunteer, “Saeed is okay, but under a lot of pressure to solve the problems for the animals.”
“Nowhere in Gaza is safe”
Detailed Saeed Al Err on October 23, 2023, “At this moment, there is still dog and cat food in Gaza. The estimated stock at the beginning of the war was about a month, so they haven’t run out yet. Of course we will keep posting updates. ATMs are also still working.
“Is there still water? Yes,” Saeed Al Err affirmed, “but no fuel to operate the motors to pump it. So people are filling their bottles of water from people who go around with water in barrels selling it. We are buying water for the animals.
“Are the animals safe? Nowhere in Gaza is safe,” Saeed Al Err said. “This has never been more true than now. The bombing has never been this bad before. But Sulala is doing everything to keep them safe, even moving them around from place to place to keep them safer.
Moving animals to Egypt is not an option
“Can we get animals out of Gaza? They would have to go to Egypt,” Saeed Al Err believed, “and that is not an option now. The Egyptian border isn’t open for humans. How would animals go out?
“Even before the war, when people crossed into Egypt, they were not allowed to bring their pets,” Saeed Al Err mentioned, referring to regulations meant to prevent the spread of rabies.
Explained Egyptian legislative agriculture committee chair Hisham El-Hossary when the regulations were tightened effective May 1, 2023, and reinforced by banning pit bulls, Rottweilers, and 14 other high-risk dog breeds, “Official figures show there were 400,000 cases of dog bites last year, which led the state treasury to bear the massive financial cost of importing rabies shots to treat injured citizens.”
Bombs hit nearby
Opined the Belgian volunteer, “Will Saeed go the Egypt when the border opens? He will be the last person to go. His place is in Gaza and his animals are in Gaza, and everything he has in here. Egypt is a very poor country. Palestinians are not wanted there. It does not seem like an option.
“Saeed was just able to send a series of voice messages,” the Belgian volunteer added. “He asked if we wanted to know the news about the humans or the animals. I said both. This is what he said:
“At 4:00 in the morning, around 1.5 kilometers [about one mile] from me, a house was bombed and 25 people were killed.
“Around sunset, and around 150 meters[500 feet] from where I am, they bombed an apartment. The children fell out the windows on the fifth floor. One person got stuck on a balcony, and then fell on his legs. I know this person. This is my neighbor. His son and wife were killed. He is wounded, in a serious condition.”
“People miss cola and 7up”
Turning to the animals, Saeed Al Err said, “Today we brought 20 bags of food to the shelter and we went back. The dogs are all fine and now they have extra food.
“I gave dog food to two citizens to feed their dogs, and fed one donkey.”
“The wounded cat that I fed earlier, I was able to pick up and gave her a shot of penicillin. She will get better. But she doesn’t like to sit with us. She runs away. But she always stays close.
“I have been feeding a number of cats in the street in the last days,” Saeed Al Err continued. “I made a video. I think you can even hear the bombs in the background, but I’m not sure. I’ll send it to you, or I will post it later.
“Gaza is the same; the war continues,” Saeed Al Err confirmed. “People are looking for water and food to buy. Coca Cola is cut off, so people are looking for cola and 7up. If a store has a carton of cola or 7up, it’s gone in less than 15 minutes. People even miss cola and 7up.”
“I still have food”
The thirst for soft drinks, perhaps most associated with thirst in general due to the water shortage, appeared to be the least of the issues Saeed Al Err described.
“There is no gas, or not enough,” Saeed Al Err said. “People have one bottle, maybe one and a half. And there is no electricity. People are making bread on their clay ovens, like in old times. They do it with a stone from here and a stone from there, and zinc plates and cardboard. There is no wood. Today I visited people and I saw they were making bread like this.”
“I still have food. I will bring food to other people tomorrow for their dogs and cats,” Saeed Al Err pledged. “Anyone who needs food for their pets, I will give it to them.”
Asks relief agencies to remember animals
But Saeed Al Err asked “for the international organizations that help us, if in addition to the human food” being delivered by relief convoys from Egypt, “they could also remember animals. I understand that humans are first,” Saeed Al Err acknowledged, “but if the situation continues for a long time, we need to remind people that there is also a need for the animals of Gaza.”
On October 24, 2023, Sa’ed Al Err reported, “We distributed food to seven different citizens with pets.
“We are following up with two kittens who are on top of a store, to see if their mother is still alive. If we confirm that she is dead, we will take them with us and feed them.
“We fed the dogs and cats in the shelter and we put out food for the dogs and cats in the street.
“We have food for the animals for approximately another week. Saeed called another seller, and he said he had stock, but in the north of Gaza. It is impossibly dangerous to go there now.
“We fed horses and donkeys who came with the refugees from the north.”
Israeli Bat Sanctuary rescues turkeys
Nora Lifschitz “and our awesome volunteers rescued from the war zone a group of frightened turkeys who found refuge in a fortified shelter at the side of the road,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary posted on October 22, 2023.
“We transferred the turkeys to the wonderful educational farm Natural Bonds, a rescue and sanctuary for farm animals. They host a lot of animals that were rescued from the warzone,” the Israeli Bat Sanctuary mentioned.
“Bat Woman” Nora Lifschitz had already become a minor Israeli celebrity before the Hamas attacks of October 7, 2023, explained Ben Suissa for Israel21c, after “The documentary ‘Nora,’ exploring her life and work, won first place in the debut film category at Tel Aviv’s most recent DocAviv festival.”
Hamas killed “dozens of pets”
Lifschitz, 36, established the Israeli Bat Sanctuary in 2016 “to treat and rehabilitate injured fruit bats and release back into nature those fit enough to survive.”
Seven years later, the purple-haired, pierced, tattooed Lifschitz was among the first and certainly the most colorful animal rescuers to venture into the kibbutzes attacked by Hamas to bring out animal survivors.
“A horrific fact that the media has not really focused much on,” observed Suissa, “is that dozens of pets were also brutally executed by Hamas on October 7, 2023,” and thousands of farmed animals were shot, burned alive in barn fires, or simply left locked in barns without caretakers.
“I drug aggressive or hysterical dogs if needed,” Lifschitz told Suissa. “I carry rabbits and cats in bags or pillow cases.
“It’s not about going there to take a picture”
“It’s not about going there to take a picture with a cute dog and put it on social media,” Lifschitz emphasized.
“There is a harder side which I find to be the most meaningful in this work. Many times I go into settlements where people have been kidnapped or murdered, waiting four hours at the checkpoint to be able to go in just to verify for the owner whether an animal really died.”
“I have to go in and take pictures, notify the owners, and convince them that it really is their pet,” Lifschitz explained. “Some of them ask for a picture. There are those who have lost their entire family, their home, and what they have left is only this pet. And they want to know. It’s a terrible part of the job, but to me it’s the most important.”
Kibbutz survivor stayed for the chickens
One man Lifschitz is assisting, at a kibbutz “literally on the fence with Gaza,” Suissa wrote, “stayed simply because he has chickens there he was taking care of all of his life, and he can’t reach them to feed them.”
Recounted Lifschitz, “The army is not willing, of course, to accompany him because it’s right on the fence, so he needed my help. You could say, well, they’re just chickens. But they are important to him. These animals are a big part of people’s lives.”
Added Suissa, “Lifshitz is also supplying vegan food and supplies to soldiers currently in the field. About one of every 18 soldiers is vegetarian or vegan, but most of the food that Israelis are cooking and sending to bases is animal-based.”
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