Tuesday, November 2, 2010


In Israel cats have replaced squirrels (of which there are none) as the cute, wild, ubiquitous species. They are everywhere in Israel and my town is no exception.

They hang out in the park, gad about through the yards, and dive for food among the dumpsters (which we have instead of curbside pick-up). In short…they make a pleasant nuisance of themselves. Pleasant, if you are like me, and have the habit of speaking to wildlife, cats, birds, dogs, lizards, who cross one’s path. Pleasant, if you like me, enjoy watching them prance and play: probably a nuisance for most else.

During Succot one stray or not so stray -the cat may or may not semi-belong to a family down the street who have a habit of claiming but not really caring for various cats- came to visit us: a cute little imp, not quite full grown by the size of it, white fur with a few black spots, one smack in the middle of its forehead, and a rather scruffy tail. My husband and I named it George, for no reason that we know of, informing our children who, because they think it a girl and thus protested the name, that George would do for both. One child insists on Snowball. We have not conceded.

I happen to love George. He is cute, and friendly, and funny…well I would adopt him in minute but three problems persist. 1) My husband, who isn’t as compelled as I am (for financial reasons) into making our home a refugee for animals. 2) Our two already owned cats, who aren’t into other animals as much as I am. Rather territorial those two I am afraid. 3) The family down the street who would most likely protest the sudden appropriation of there semi-cat.

So George must continue to live as s/he is living now; outside, untended by us.

But George likes us, and therein lies the problem. George, to the best of my knowledge hasn’t had his shots. George, like most young cats who like humans likes to play with said humans. And cats at play sometimes scratch. Another reason I want to adopt George. At least I know then s/he has its rabies shot!

Monday I was walking up the “50 Steps” (a family designation) to the library which doubles as a מרכז הלמידה (learning center) to fulfill my duty as volunteer English tutor for whoever comes…Some days I go mad with the number of people who want me, having to deal with two or three at one time, and a few in the wings, other days no one wants me! Well at the library no one wanted me, but George certainly did! Jumping at my feet and my bag persistently; several times I needed to take George by the scruff and move him (or her) away. Finally I did manage to get away. George’s territory it seems ends with the second landing on the stairs.

Through the park I went, turning onto the street and past the dumpsters where I greet the stray and less friendly members of George’s clan. There one cute as a button kitten, no more than a month old, is trying to intimidate a much older, and larger cat. The cats scatter. My presence alarms, as it should. Humans and strays don’t always get along. The kitten and a cat I presume is its mother, as the kitten jumps down after said cat, scurried across the street. I continued up the hill and have gone quite a few steps when I see a car turn, and go down the street.
And I hear tires screech. Even without looking I know.

I turn around; it couldn’t be those cats…they would have crossed the street by now. I had walked some distance before they rushed away and the street isn’t large. Maybe they got away. The car drives off and a large cat is lying there…it moves, I hope, it falls. And a dark, thin stream flows away from it down the hill.

A white cat comes out from behind the bins, stares, one foot raised, confused and tense. I turn back around and continue up the hill, feeling slightly guilty (was I guilty for causing the cats to scatter? And I felt even more compelled to campaign for George's adoption) and extremely sad.

Life is so fragile for all of us.

I have often wondered about the last thoughts of those who have had no time to prepare to face their death. Lofty or little, does it matter? Those of a certain spiritual temperament may feel that it is for these reasons that higher thoughts should always be kept in mind.

But does it really matter? What difference does it make if in ten years those thoughts of G-d or science or the Arts would have had a more profound effect on one or on the world than thoughts about what to make for dinner, if those ten years will never exist?