While mountain biking off trail as I usually do in the Judean Hills I noticed a dead raptor (Lesser Kestrel, Baz in Hebrew) lying on the path and biked on before eventually remembering that they are rapidly disappearing from the Israeli scene. I returned to see if the bird had been banded somewhere in the world as they are in the category of raptors that migrate to warmer climes in the winter months. Visually I examined the bird which showed no signs of physical trauma and noticed that the raptor had been banded which would be important to ornithologists at the SPNI. As it was a New Years when most offices are closed I remembered that the Jerusalem Zoo has a veterinary hospital/sanctuary for birds of all types, as years earlier I had found a Lesser Kestrel in Morasha which had left the nest a bit early and was unable to fly, lest the feral cats in the neighborhood decided it would be their next meal.
I changed my route and biked to the zoo with the dead bird in a somewhat ragged plastic bag I had found lying on the ground. It was around 8 AM, and employees were cleaning the visitors entrance. I called one over and explained to him that I had found a banded, dead raptor which should be given to the staff at the avian hospital. He looked at me a bit perplexed so I asked him if he spoke Hebrew, he nodded yes and I asked him if he knew the importance of a banded bird, he nodded yes and told me to wait , he would notify the on-duty security officer.
After a minute or two, I noticed the security officer on the other side of the gate approaching, with a drawn handgun, prominently held in a rather threatening manner, as if to say, ‘one had better know with whom one was dealing’. I explained to him that the dead bird was not only banded but rapidly disappearing from the Israeli scene and I ask that the bird be given to the hospital staff. He stood there, with the handgun still prominently held in the aggressive, somewhat frightening manner and asked for the bird. By this time I was so agitated by what was transpiring and the manner in which he was dealing with a simple request that I told the security officer, I would not hand over the raptor, until he holstered the weapon. He did not apologize for the manner in which he had been dealing with my request, placed the weapon in his front waist band, where, if needed, he could easily pull it out again. I gave the security officer the plastic bag with the dead bird, mounted the bike and road off in the hills, feeling at this point, a Shana Tova farewell was pointless.
Did I, an ‘over the hill, overweight, white haired mt biker’, dressed in lycra, with a helmet, speaking Hebrew with a prominent Anglo-Saxon accent pose a security threat to the zoo, at 8 in the morning ? Was the drawn weapon necessary, or was it an ominous forecast for Israeli society in the new year of 5775?