Inside the Whirlwind

Although I’ve been to Israel six times before now, this adventure was always going to be special. My father and I arrived in late July, and I hung around until the rest of my family left mid-August. The traditional gap-year of studying in Israel of many Jewish Americans my age is an exciting experience. After the settled routine of high school, substantial developments that previously occurred every month or so in life flashed by. Public transport, debit cards, dorm life, independent learning. Everything seemed new even before the war hit, I didn't make a post before it simply because I was so busy doing so many different things. Since then, I haven’t written for very different and obvious reasons.
My reason for being able to write about what’s going on is that this is also to a degree supposed to be a life blog, as I wrote in the first post. Ironically, I was meaning to write a paragraph about how surprisingly safe Israel is in this post, but can now confirm that Israel is indeed very safe, except during a war when it can be in fact quite dangerous.
By Saturday night, we knew the toll was already unprecedented: 200 killed and 30 taken hostage, and Israel immediately declared war. This is a country that traded 1,027 terrorists for a single captive soldier a few years back, with many high-profile terrorists being freed. And then the number of identified bodies began to steadily rise to over 1,300 killed and 240 taken hostage…
Where I was, the first sign of war was the announcement to take shelter, the subsequent sound of the Iron Dome interceptions and a rumor I heard that there were reports of some kidnappings overheard via walkie-talkie. I spent some time on a nice lookout overlooking a large portion of the country, walking two fighter jets gaining altitude below me and wondering how serious this was. A Eurasian Sparrowhawk flying overhead was obviously an afterthought.
With family and friends in the war, even though there haven’t been so many volunteer opportunities, I still didn’t go birding for a few weeks afterward simply because I didn’t feel it was proper. Fighting against a force that wants to kill everyone who isn’t a radical Islamist takes up one’s thoughts, but the news articles of fellow “infidels”, all of whom Hamas would love to throw off a tall building, protesting against Israel made me somehow feel even worse.
So I haven’t been thinking about those weeks in terms of the birds I haven’t seen, but in the past weeks I’ve slowly been going back out into the field. Sadly for hopes of large flocks of pipits, larks, and harriers, there are no fields. The small range running north and south from Jerusalem reaches its peak around here, at a height of nearly 1,000 meters. Built on the top of a hill, the surrounding habitat is vineyards, large bushes, pines, and rocks, and in and near the campus are several areas of artificially watered “forests”.
While I was still with my family in a Jerusalem apartment during the second half of the summer, I didn’t do much birding, but I did revisit the Jerusalem Bird Observatory a couple of times, as I volunteered there in 2022 at this time of year. Those quick outings produced my long overdue lifer Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Eurasian Hoopoe, Eastern Orphean Warbler, and Common Reed Warbler. Although a quick glance at a field guide may lead one to conclude they will never learn how to tell the difference between many birds here, once one sees them in the hand and their identifying details are revealed, the subtle differences jump out even at a distance. More on that in the next post, which will hopefully come in substantially less than three months, and with the topic focusing on birds this time.

Publicado el 20 de noviembre de 2023 22:43 por yonatansimkovich yonatansimkovich


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