Posts Tagged ‘nature’


I’ve been enthralled by the volume of snow dumped on the US (and New England, in particular) this winter, and have posted several times on the subject.  But Wednesday, my inbox had an unexpected treat for spring, a photo taken by Yehoshua Halevi of poppies in the Ela Valley (taken 2007), near Beit Shemesh where I used to live.  I always loved spring in Oregon and New England, where first the snowdrops would appear (in February, yet), then the crocuses and daffodils, followed by the tulips and irises, and finally the lilacs would give one splashes of color and sometimes heady scents carried on the breezes.  But early spring in Israel has its own charm, with almond trees blossoming, cyclamen bursting forth from the rocky soil, and anemones and poppies dotting the fields and roadsides.  This lush photo of poppies is Israel at its greenest and most luxuriant; take it in while you can, because once the hot winds hit in late March and April, things begin to dry out again and the green is gone for the next seven or eight months.  (A word about the Ela Valley: The winery there puts out the most magnificent chardonnay I’ve ever tasted.  Most chardonnay doesn’t appeal to me because of its sharpness, but the Ela Valley chardonnay is smooth, fragrant, and mellow.  I highly recommend it.)

Thanks to Yehoshua for letting me post the photo here.  You may notice I have added his weekly photo blog to my blogroll; I encourage you to click on it periodically to see what gorgeous images of Israel, the holidays, and the people here he has on view.


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Winter at Darlington Hall

We haven’t had much of a winter in Israel (do we ever?), and for some reason, my thoughts have been turning to the real winter in the Northeast where most of my family and friends live.  I’ve been singing “Let It Snow” to the kids at bedtime, and hearing with mingled amusement and envy about friends whose kids are home for snow days (though that envy has dissipated by the fifth straight snow day).  There have been a couple of vaguely forecasted snow days for Efrat, but none have actually produced anything white.

While I have a few content-oriented posts percolating in my wee little brain, I am a bit mired down in transcribing and editing (my new stab at work).  So in lieu of a real post, I’ll share with you some photos of my parents’ home and environs taken by my father in the last few days.  Those of you in New England will roll your eyes in recognition, but for those of you on the West Coast, in Israel, or in the southern hemisphere, they may inspire a nostalgia for the winters of old (or never, as the case may be).

Note: Those who are familiar with Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day will recognize the name of the country home where it’s set, Darlington Hall, which is also my pet name for my parents’ house on 10 acres in southern Vermont.

Road to Darlington Hall

Darlington Hall from the road

The farm "next door"

Seeing these images makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be worth a trip back to the US in the winter sometime so the kids can see real snow, experience a cup of cocoa by a fireplace, and sled down the hill with their cousins.  School, travel-adverse weather, and other things come in conflict with such a trip, but still, I wonder…

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“Open winter”

I’m in possession of my great-aunt’s copy of the Bible, published in 1868.  This King James translation, gently used and lovingly re-covered by my mother (a skilled bookmender), has color pictures throughout of the life of Jesus, a few tattered ribbons marking pages, one ball-point pen marking (arcing the verse from Micah which says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”), and a very interesting clipping from an unknown Vermont newspaper (perhaps the Orleans Chronicle), of unknown date.  Here is how it reads:

“This an open winter?”

This office is in receipt of a letter from Dwight H. Squires of Ogdensburg, N. Y., formerly of Derby [Vt.], in which he enclosed a clipping from “The Advance News” of Ogdensburg, N. Y., which classed the weather in Vermont the past three months as an open winter as compared with that of 1862.

“This winter we think that we have been getting a lot of snow but after reading the following paragraph taken from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, published at New York on April 26, 1862, it appears that this could be called an ‘open’ winter:

‘SNOW—The snowfall during the past winter has been very heavy throughout Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Northern New York.  In Peacham, Vt. the people for a long time used their chamber windows for doors, and the orchards were so buried that the tops of the trees appeared like bushes, the uppermost twigs only, rising above the snow.  One drift in Troy was tunneled for a distance of over 50 rods [825 feet, or 251 meters], and loads of hay, wood, etc., passed through.  In Newport a large drift was excavated so as to make a room 60 feet by 40 feet [18 meters by 12 meters], and 18 feet [5.5 meters] high in the center.  In this room a festival was held, 180 ladies and gentlemen being present.  Two large tables were spread and the snow palace was illuminated by twelve hanging lamps.’”

When I wrote my mother to tell her about the clipping, she responded, “And if you have a newsclipping about a snowstorm from Aunt Reet, that couldn’t come close to matching the snowstorm in the 1880s when Grandma McDanolds wrote about it [in New Hampshire].  THAT was a snowstorm!!  Socked everyone in for a week or so, couldn’t even get to the barn to milk the cows for a couple of days, and when it finally stopped snowing, Grandma and Uncle Harry climbed up it to mark on the tree where the top of the snow was.  Later, when it had all melted (I think it took until May), it was 35 ft high.  Incredible.  Even this winter has been bad everywhere, but especially New England.  CT usually gets about 41″ of snow, this year so far they have something like 89″.  (Or maybe it’s 49 and 81, but whatever.)”

I stay in touch with my shul community from Newton, Mass., by following the shul’s chat list.  The big theme in the past few weeks has been snow: borrowing roof rakes to get the heavy snow off before the next blizzard comes and dumps another load on it, trying to keep the gutters from clogging with ice, and how and when to file insurance claims for ice-damage to gutters.  (The insurance companies say not to bother to file a claim now, since more snow is probably on the way, but to wait until the spring when all the damage is done, then file one claim.)  And with all the snow days, friends on Facebook are having to entertain homebound children with cabin fever, getting behind in their own work, and generally pining for a thaw.

I miss snow, sometimes.  But not that much snow.

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Nasty commute

This is a photo sent my mother by a friend from her hometown in northern Vermont.  On the one hand, I envy that amount of precipitation.  On the other hand, I am grateful not to have to shovel the little precip. we do get here.

Ah, the wonder of nature.  Just wait until spring comes.  Now where did I put my canoe?

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Zionist animal spies

Sometimes I close my eyes and wonder if all the wild accusations against Israel are really true.  Has the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict really exacted an unconscionable toll in American blood and treasure?  Is the Zionist conspiracy to control the world real?  Is Israel really the only thing that stands between humankind and world peace?  Have I been hoodwinked by what seems like a normal life, among normal people, in a country nominally recognized by the United Nations of Planet Earth?

And then I look at what Israel’s enemies actually accuse it of.  In December, Egypt’s Sinai riviera suffered a series of shark attacks which they accused Israel’s Mossad agency of unleashing to hurt Egyptian tourism.  (Watch the Colbert Nation report here.)  And earlier this month, a vulture with a GPS monitor chip on its Tel Aviv University leg tag inspired Saudi Arabia to conclude that the vulture was a Zionist spy.  (Again, Colbert covers it here.)

As Stephen Colbert warns, “I say we keep an eye on the Israelis.  Arab governments have already proven they control the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.  It’s only a matter of time until they get the beasts of the land, too.  Pigs, you’re the only ones we can trust.”

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Oregon, my Oregon

Moving around the US as much as my family did when I was young, it’s not easy to come up with an answer to the question, “Where are you from?”  On the one hand, I am tempted to answer “Boston,” since that’s where the Cap’n and I lived for many years before making aliyah.  But despite my Vermonter mother and the fact that our ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, no one could mistake me for a New Englander.  I’m no Southerner (we only lasted two years in Georgia), nor a Coloradan, nor a Californian.  I was born in Seattle, but my family left before I was a year old.

That leaves Oregon, where I spent six years as a child and another twelve on and off as an adult.  I worked there, made friends, and got to know the place better than any other state I’ve lived in.  My friend Kathy and I would make day trips to the coast, to Astoria, to Warm Springs.  I skied on Mount Hood, hiked in the Columbia Gorge, stayed on the Metolius River, visited Sisters with my family, drifted down the Deschutes River with my father, attended a play at the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.  Portland was my stomping ground for many years, going to movies at the Movie House (an indie theater that doubled as the Portland Women’s Club, where the lobby was full of squishy armchairs, board games, and a fireplace); the opera; hiking in Forest Park and Tryon Creek State Park; visiting the zoo and the Forestry Center; strolling through the Rose Test Garden, Hoyt Arboretum, and the Japanese Garden; and enjoying the wide variety of great restaurants including our family’s favorites: Swagat (south Indian, located in Beaverton), Kashmir (Pakistani), Al-Amir (Lebanese), and Mykonos (Greek).

With the cooler weather coming here in Efrat, I am reminded that there was never a bad season in Oregon.  Summers were sometimes late (beginning in July some years), but warm and dry.  Autumn was cool and crisp, with a dizzying variety of apples (with which my family would make homemade cider).  Winter was cool and drizzly much of the time, but we got the occasional snow around New Year’s which made the place a wonderland.  (When my parents moved back to Oregon my last year of college, they bought a house atop a steep hill with a panoramic view of Mount Hood out the living room window.  It snowed that winter, and my entire family—Irish setter included—sledded down the steep hill in the middle of the night.)  And spring was magical, with fragrant daffodils blooming, the delicate smell from the flowering crabapple tree drifting through my open window, and the “Chiddle-urp! chiddle-urp! chiddle-urp!” of robins in the morning.

While Seattle was very hip in the 1990s for its grunge scene, Starbuck’s coffee, and crunchy, flannel-wearing Northwest character, Oregon has its share of attractions.  It’s always been a place where beer is beloved, with the Anheuser-Busch brewery right behind Powell’s Bookstore downtown, and microbreweries everywhere.  Windsurfers flock from all over the world to surf the powerful winds of the Columbia Gorge.  And those interested in natural beauty can find desert, lakes, old-grown forests, mountains, beaches, and rivers to explore.  Portland has more annual rainfall than Seattle, but growing up with that much rain taught me never to be put off by it.  (The Cap’n and I were once expecting Shabbat guests, but the torrential rain that day kept them at home.  We, on the other hand, NEVER missed a social engagement due to rain.  There is a Minnesotan expression, “There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.”)  Rain, after all, is an excellent excuse for hot chocolate.

I once heard a talk by a local rabbi who was new to Portland.  He remarked on the magnificent view of Mount Hood from the city of Portland and wondered aloud when the wonder of it wears off.  The audience chuckled and murmured, “Never.”  I could say the same for the rest of the state.  Since in the American psyche, Oregon is one of those tucked-away places, like Wyoming, Delaware, and Nebraska, I’ll share a few photos of the place (from the Web):

Oregon coastline


Japanese Gardens, Portland

The Salmon River

Rose Test Garden, Portland

My children occasionally ask me if I miss America.  I can’t deny that I do sometimes, and that my yearning is not eased by the knowledge that I may never see Oregon again more than once, perhaps twice.  But I hope one day, on one of our family’s rare trips to the US, to take my children to see it.

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Tagging bears

My father sends me lots of cool (and sometimes weird) stuff.  The video below shows a segment from the Canadian Broadcasting Company’s “Rick Mercer Report” where the host trudges out into the snows of Algonquin Park to tag newborn black bear cubs.  Between Mercer’s humor, nutty Canadian accent, and the magnificence of the Park in winter, I call it a very cool armchair adventure.

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Afghan village

The following photos of a village in Afghanistan were in an email forwarded to me by my mother.  Village or Habitrail®?  You be the judge.

And you wonder why they can’t find Osama bin Laden.

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Early hyacinth

Among my many fond memories of living in New England is seeing the snowdrops push their way up through the dirt, wet leaves, and slush in February.  They were the first harbinger of spring, and I planted them deliberately to have something blooming before the crocuses came up in March.

My garden in Israel has been a disappointment thus far.  Most of the plants in it are spindly or diseased, and the soil (of the worst possible quality) is packed so hard that it took hours of hacking away last year for the girls and me to put in a few bulbs.  (I have requested that the Cap’n start a fund toward which we put the money for a total overhaul of the garden in another year or two.)  Last spring we had a couple of crocuses, a few narcissus, and two hyacinths.  This year only one hyacinth has appeared in the great confusion of warm weather before winter’s final exit.  (The other hyacinth and most of the crocuses appear to have been dug up in the course of the local feral felines using my garden as a public loo.)  Beans came in breathless this afternoon having taken a turn about the garden and spotted the Lone Survivor:

Ahhh, a spot of beauty in a garden of mediocrity.

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Rain, rain, DON’T go away

Today is our second day of rain in a row, and we’re due for more tomorrow.  (Some rumors are circulating that it could even turn to snow, but while snow is sometimes seen outside the Golan Heights, including in Efrat, I’ll believe it when I see it.)

It began yesterday morning.  We rose to a typical day of bright, morning sunshine, and got the kids out the door as usual.  As I was sitting at my computer and looked out the window, however, I saw the sky quickly turn to gray and the wind pick up.  (One thing that is amazing about Israel, and particularly Gush Etzion, is that the weather changes on a dime here.)  The sky opened up soon after, and while there were brief respites during the day, the rain came down pretty steadily all day, and most of last night.  (I know because I was awake for much of the night.) When my friend Ilana and I traveled to Jerusalem yesterday, the fog was thick on the road, a common occurrence in the Gush since our altitude places us nearly in the clouds during weather like this.

Rain in a desert country like Israel is almost like manna falling from the sky.  Israel has had a serious of unusually dry winters, and while this winter was predicted to be wetter than past years, until this week that prediction did not appear to be accurate.  Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar called for Israelis to fast and pray for rain (even harder than we do anyway, which is three times a day).  But a look at the level of the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) shows that the heavy rains have had an impact on the water level.  The Cap’n informs me that the Kinneret used to feed into the Jordan River and make its way ultimately to the Dead Sea, but that this has not been the case for many years, the outflow having been closed off to preserve Israel’s precious chief water supply.  (The Dead Sea continues to be fed, much less regularly, by runoff from the desert.  We have hiked several of the nachalim, or washes, that lead from the desert highlands to the Dead Sea, but those would be quite deadly in the last few days.  The road that runs along the Dead Sea past Masada and Ein Gedi is sometimes washed out in weather like this.)

As beautiful and necessary as the rain is, it also wreaks havoc when it falls in torrents like this.  Last time we had heavy rains, several people were killed.  Sometimes it is Bedouins in the desert lowlands who get caught by sudden flooding.  But sometimes it is thrill-seekers who hear dire warnings to avoid certain areas where flash-flooding occurs, and interpret those warnings as an invitation to see something cool.  The Jerusalem Post had an editorial a couple of weeks ago recommending that such people be responsible for paying for their own rescue missions, which are dangerous and costly.

On a rainy day earlier in the year, one of the Crunch girls came home and said it was a mabul outside.  Mabul is the word used to describe the rising waters in the story of Noah.  But in ulpan we learned that the rivulets of water and flash flooding are actually called a shitafon.   (Shin-tet-feh is also the root for “wash,” and expressions that use this root include “scolding,” e.g. shtifah min haminahel and “brainwashing,” i.e. shtifat moach.)

Having grown up in Oregon, I am not bothered by rain.  I loved the weather there, and when the rain sometimes turned to snow, it became magical.  One New Year’s Eve, when I was home from college for the Christmas holidays, my entire family–parents, adult children, and Irish setter–went sledding down the very long, steep hill near our house.

In Boston, the Crunch family was always equipped with both raingear and snowgear.  But now the Crunch girls have nearly outgrown all those boots and slickers.  I asked someone what kids are supposed to wear on their feet on the rare snow days in Efrat.  My neighbor (a Minnesotan, no less) answered with a smile, “Oh, just rubber-band plastic bags over their shoes.  It’s only one or two days a year.”

Today I will spend most of my time in the kitchen preparing food for Shabbat (warming soups, warm tomato and zucchini gratin, warm chocolate dipping sauce for fruit chunks and homemade marshmallows).  My kitchen window looks out through a small section of our garden to our car parked on the street outside.  One of the things I will enjoy when I look out the window will be seeing that car, like all the other cars around here, get its thick layer of dust and filth washed off.  For free.

Come again some other day.  And another.  And another.

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Partial eclipse

This morning, the Cap’n and I hauled the kids to the Dekel, the most central neighborhood in Efrat, to view a partial solar eclipse.  They got to miss a bit of school (we were there from about 7:45 to 8:15), and enjoyed viewing the eclipse through thick cellophane filters, through a telescope which projected the sun and moon’s images onto a file folder, and with an old-fashioned, low-tech method of two pieces of white paper, one with a pinhole in it and the other behind it acting as the “screen.”  The morning’s viewing was courtesy of AstroTom, a local amateur astronomer who keeps interested Efratniks informed of interesting astronomical events via email.  It’s also thanks to Tom that we saw the Space Station pass overhead a couple of nights in the fall, and know which planets are appearing in the sky at a given time.  He told us that if one were in South Asia or Central Africa this morning, one would have observed a total eclipse.

A partial eclipse is not as dramatic as a total eclipse, but it is still amazing to see how nature works.  I witnessed a total solar eclipse when I was a kid in Oregon back in the late 1970s.  They talked about it in school for weeks beforehand, and showed kids how to make the white paper projector to watch it safely.  I had trouble getting the papers to work back then; today it worked beautifully.  (Though AstroTom’s image from his telescope was much bigger and easier to see today.)

I suppose most kids went to school as usual this morning, and either didn’t know about the eclipse or didn’t take much interest.  But these things don’t happen often, and while our kids may not take a huge amount of interest right now, we still think it’s important for them to see and learn about the wonders of nature.  And we had a good time chatting with a real star-gazer and accosting passers-by, handing them filters to view the likui chama themselves.

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The science of fall foliage

While this is not a Mayflower-specific fact, it is one that I gleaned from reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, and that interests me greatly:

Neither Bradford nor Winslow[two governors of Plymouth Colony] mention it, but the First Thanksgiving coincided with what was, for the Pilgrims, a new and startling phenomenon: the turning of the green leaves of summer to the incandescent yellows, reds, and purples of a New England autumn.  With the shortening of the days comes a diminishment in the amount of green chlorophyll in the tree leaves, which allows the other pigments contained within the leaves to emerge.  In Britain, the cloudy fall days and warm nights cause the autumn colors to be muted and lackluster.  In New England, on the other hand, the profusion of sunny fall days and cool but not freezing nights unleashes the colors latent within the tree leaves, with oaks turning red, brown, and russet; hickories golden brown; birches yellow; red maples scarlet; sugar maples orange; and black maples glowing yellow.  It was a display that must have contributed to the enthusiasm with which the Pilgrims later wrote of the festivities that fall.

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Fall foliage

One of the things I knew I would miss when we made aliyah was the incomparable fall foliage in New England.  Israel in the spring is stunning, but it’s nothing like the sensory blast one gets from the yellow birches, red maples, and green and brown oaks of the northeastern US.

But today, I was heartened to see this gorgeous photo in my email inbox.  It was taken by Yehoshua Halevi and is on his photo blog, “Israel the Beautiful” (to which I subscribe and receive weekly photos of Israel).  He took the photo here in Gush Etzion (of which Efrat is a part).  Check out his other photos of Israel in all her seasons at his blog.


I heard someone once say that Israel is supposed to contain a little of everything that is in the rest of the world, but in miniature.  Mini-Sahara (the Negev), mini-Mt. Everest (the Harmon), mini-Lake Superior (the Kinneret).  And now mini-New England, here in Gush Etzion.  Who knew?

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Parrot flowers

My mother sent me these photos.  Since they’ve been circulating on the Internet, one never knows if they’re real (Thailand is famous for its rare orchids), or if they’re just a really good Photoshop job.  Either way, they’re a remarkable work of craftsmanship.




If they’re real, then clearly there are flowers, and then there are flowers…

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Two turtledoves

I always loved the carol “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as a child.  It was fun to sing, and a challenge to remember all the absurd but dramatic gifts one lover gave to another.  (The Cap’n says an amusing lover’s response to the gifts has toured the Internet and includes an exasperated query about the giver’s obsession with birds, i.e. 23 birds in all!)  And turtledoves, particularly, have powerful associations both Biblically and with romantic love.

However, after a recent experience I have been forever disabused of any romantic notions about turtledoves.  They are native to the Holy Land, rust-colored, but otherwise no different from the mud hens and feathered rats that plague urban areas of Europe and the U.S.

Until last week, we had a pair of them nesting atop our yunkers (boiler) cabinet on our second floor balcony.  When I say “nesting,” I use the term very loosely.  What they had really managed to do was collect a few stray twigs, shed a few feathers, and furnish the rest of their love nest with their own droppings.  I would never have noticed them at all if they had not occasionally gotten the urge to “clean house”, and knock all their spare droppings onto the floor of the balcony (no doubt to “refresh” their nest with newer ones).  I don’t know how many clutches of chicks they had planned to rear in this utterly disgraceful environment, but I hope not many.

After the shocking discovery of this affront to good housekeeping on the balcony where I usually hang my laundry in warm weather, something had to be done.  I spent part of an afternoon decked out in grubby clothing, rubber gloves, rags, highly disinfected water, and my government-issue gas mask, removing all signs of these derelicts.  I superglued rows of spikes to the top of the cabinet, and then gave the floor of the balcony a thorough wash.  After double-bagging the waste (including the rags and gloves) and delivering it immediately to the dumpster, I hope I’ve seen the last of that lot.  (Next job: those damned “calling birds” at 4 AM.)

I would never complain about something like this on the Beit Shemesh chat list because there was a militant animal and bird advocate named Ludmilla on there who would give anyone complaining of filthy birds, feral cats, or Palestinian vipers (the reptilian variety) an earful about the animal’s life, habits, and superior right to existence over humans.  But on my own personal blog I am free to call the shots, and I’m here to tell my readers, bird-lovers and the bird-indifferent, that under NO circumstances should anyone give as a gift two turtledoves to someone they love.

Their worst enemy, on the other hand…

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A new kind of varmint

One of the things I haven’t missed about living in North America are all the varmints there.  Squirrels scolding from treetops and chewing holes in plastic garbage can lids; mice taking up residence in the basement and roaming the crack-filled old house at will; raccoons knocking over trash cans and scattering the contents everywhere; skunks doing the same, but smelling horrible all the while—these all used to drive me mad.  I tell you, I was glad to leave ’em behind when we made aliyah.

Of course, Israel has its own pests.  Pigeons scattered their feathers and droppings everywhere in Beit Shemesh, and had a special fondness for nesting (and relieving themselves) on the air conditioning unit just outside our laundry balcony.  In the winter, when the unit was soaked in rainwater, the smell was indescribable.  Feral cats, too, were a necessary evil, keeping the rat population down while living off the fat of the dumpsters, dropping their kittens in everyone’s gardens, and serenading the humans (sometimes all through the night).

Moving to Efrat has improved some of the pest problem.  Through the efforts of the neighborhood, our dumpsters are located up the hill from where our houses are; cats who wish to forage must go there.  Pigeons are rarely seen in our neighborhood.  A few nutters have adopted cats, so in the summer when the windows are open at night, one is often screamed awake by cats entering into a disagreement.  But in terms of life-disturbing nuisances, the worst offenders are the Muslims in the three surrounding Arab villages who broadcast their prayers over loudspeakers (something not done anywhere else in the Muslim world, East or West), including between 3 and 4 AM.

We live on four levels, with basement, main living quarters on the ground floor, children’s bedrooms on the second floor (first floor if you’re English or some derivative thereof), and master suite on the top floor.  Nighttime in our neighborhood is usually quiet, and most of the pests have gone to bed (until it’s time to wake for prayers at 3 AM).  So imagine my shock and surprise to hear footsteps on our roof at midnight last night!  Our house is attached on both sides, and although I was in bed, one of our neighbors is fairly handy, and might have been fixing something on his roof.  I had been dozing over my book and checked the clock; it was after midnight!  Then who was it walking on the roof?  The feet made a scuffling sound, but this creature was too big to be a mouse.  There are no possums or raccoons here.  Hyraxes live in the desert but don’t seek human company.  An Egyptian mongoose would never have the dexterity (or the desire) to scale a wall (which, in our case, is conveniently covered with vines) and mount a roof.

I crept to the basement to summon the Cap’n.  Together we stood in our room, listening to the movement on the roof.  “Sounds like a mouse,” he said, but agreed when I pointed out that this thing was clearly heavier than a mouse.  I was tempted to open the glass door and iron gate to the balcony to get a closer look, but thought better of it.  (The scene from The Princess Bride in the Fire Swamp with the rodents-of-unusual-size is still too fresh in my mind.)  Just then, a small face appeared on the edge of the roof, visible through the glass door.  A ferret-like creature took in the sight of two surprised humans impassively, then trotted off to the edge of the house and headfirst, climbed down the vines to look for its midnight snack.

A brief consultation with our field guide to wild animals in Israel informs me that this was a beech marten, a member of the weasel family, and an enthusiastic attic-dweller.  It appears we need to make sure that our attic is well sealed, and inform the neighbors to do the same.  (Unless, of course, this animal preys on cranky, inconsiderate neighbors or quarrelsome cats.  Then I might have to think about it.)

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