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October 9, 2015 | 26th Tishrei 5776

Country Living

March 2, 2003
Marc Rosenstein

This morning when I walked the dog, we encountered a donkey standing next to the garbage dumpster. Just standing there, calmly, as if someone had parked him there. The dog seemed uninterested, and half an hour later, the donkey had disappeared. He has been making appearances around the moshav for over a week; he turns up munching someone's flowers; they chase him away and call the county animal warden, and nothing happens until the next sighting...

Saturday, there were two cows grazing among the weeds just behind our vegetable patch. In this season of lush growth, the Arab cowherds from the neighboring village turn their herds out in the morning to enjoy the vegetation on the hillsides, and call them back together at sunset. We have gotten accustomed to their incursions into Shorashim, which are actually most annoying, as one hoofprint in the soft mud is enough to decimate half of our garden, and the cows' leavings on lawns and paths are rather a nuisance. It seems that there is no way to keep them out, short of installing a cowproof barrier at the moshav gate, and improving and maintaining the perimeter fence. Since nothing is simple in this country, we find ourselves wondering if it is purely accidental that the cows wander into Shorashim - or if there is a political statement here (by the owners, not the cows), something like, "we grazed our herds on this hill for generations before you arrived, and we don't intend to stop now..."

When we arrived here 13 years ago, the foxes that lived among the rocks carried rabies, and were responsible for an epidemic that coincided with the First (?) Gulf War, no small inconvenience. Since then, they have all been vaccinated by eating bait laced with oral vaccine. We see them occasionally crossing the entrance road at dawn or dusk; apparently they have gotten at least partially domesticated, drawn closer to the moshav by the ready availability of food around the garbage dumpsters, so they do not stay as far out of sight as they used to.

The mongooses, on the other hand, seem to have disappeared. For our first few years, we often saw them rooting in the compost heap; and when our daughter kept her horse on the moshav, they would appear on the rocks around the stable, preying on the mice hanging around the grain bin. Long, gray, and cute, they looked like oversized ferrets. We miss seeing them. I suspect the proliferation of dogs, cats, and paving drove them away.

When Shorashim was established in the mid-80s, one of the founders was a landscape architect. He planned the landscaping of the whole community, and executed his plan over a period of ten years. The results are with us every day: we live in a botanical garden. Aside from the tranquility and the beauty of the setting, and the microclimate the plantings create, the birds love it here. Especially noteworthy are the numerous hummingbirds that we often watch hovering outside our office window.

In this, the rainy season, there are always frogs hopping across the sidewalks at night. The other members of the lower orders of fauna prefer warm, dry weather: for example, just before the rainy season started this fall, we encountered a large yellow scorpion in the kitchen sink when we came down in the morning. Where had he come from? How had he gotten up onto the counter considering that he couldn't climb out of the sink? The mysterious Middle East. Yellow scorpions are the more poisonous kind. Our daughter, of course wouldn't hear of harming it, so we set it free in the wild, as we had the little brightly colored non-poisonous snake that I met on the stairs coming down from the bedrooms to the living room. We meet a scorpion in the house, usually the less scary black ones, about once a year, and perhaps slightly more often the large, yellow, thoroughly disgusting poisonous centipedes (6-8 inches long), which move quickly and are harder to catch.

The good news is that the mosquitoes that plagued us for years have all but disappeared with the containment of the sewage that used to flow through the dry riverbed in the Hilazon valley below us.

Ah, Nature!


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