August 17, 2014

Nurturing Nature

Beach near Rosh HaNikra

Life in Israel seems to be back to routine, whatever that means around here. 

My son’s best friends are safely back from Gaza for now. The parents of his friend Gedaliah held a beautiful Kiddush after shul a week ago to celebrate their oldest son’s safe return. With so many young Ra’anana boys serving in Gaza, our community has been anxious and proud, with many parents filling their time aiding the soldiers and citizens of the south in various projects.

When Gedaliah’s father stood up to toast his son, he recognized that many people were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and aptly renamed it parent-traumatic-stress-disorder. Many moms standing in the room were new olim and had never experienced such fear before; some did not sleep for three weeks and could not be separated from their phones or the news for a second.

The proud dad raised his glass and explained that in life, most sons look up to their fathers with respect. In the case of this American dad who never served in the army and his redhead combat soldier son, the roles were now reversed. There was not a dry eye in the room as we watched this father and son embrace.

During this last war, I was so overwhelmed with sadness and my own touch of stress disorder, I sometimes felt too despondent to write.  In search of happy, quiet  times, one war-torn afternoon we drove to the beach in Nahariya.

Children played in the surf, leaping across the sparking waves with yelps of joy. Fishermen cast their lines in the late afternoon shimmer and families fanned their barbecues. Most of these joyful, fun-loving, relaxed people were Arab Israelis. Watching them, I had a hopeful flash of how life here should be. And is. Israelis jogged and strolled and surfed beside their Arab neighbours and everyone simply enjoyed this precious moment of beauty.

As the sun dipped, a crowd gathered around a box in a fenced-in area. We walked over and saw the box was filled with newly hatched turtles. A woman from the National Parks crouched over a hole and gently dug down, pulling out tiny turtles. 

Someone then made a path to the sea and the crowd parted in two as the miniature turtles hurtled toward the crashing waves. We were witnessing one of nature’s  miracles.

The important path that was dug for them becomes part of their turtle GPS as one day, these same turtles will return to this exact spot to lay their own eggs.

Yet because of the polluted Mediterranean and man’s domination of the beach, this is one of the world’s most endangered species. After 150 million years of survival, sea turtles now need assistance to survive.

Over 2,000 sea turtles nested here less than 100 years ago. It has been estimated that there are now less than 200 loggerheads and only 10 green female turtles in Israel.

Yes, Israel cares. It has set up the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center just north of Netanya and carefully monitors the nesting patterns along the shore. The Knesset has passed a law prohibiting building within 100 meters of the coastline.

Injured turtle? Call *6911.
To prevent extinction, Israel National Nature and Parks Authority watches the coastline, gathers the eggs and places them in a safe hatchery area. Over the last twenty years, they have released 50,000 turtles to the sea where just one in 100 lives to a reproductive age. (There is even an emergency number to call if you see a wounded turtle.)

And we there to see this magical moment. I held my breath as these tiny newborn beings plunged into a dark, deep sea where they were tossed and churned. Everyone in the crowd applauded, amazed at these tiny turtles’ determination.

From the tiniest sea turtle to the bravest soldier, Israel nurtures all and embraces life.