Judy Halper
Left is not a dirty word

And Now for the Good News

image: Nosferattus via Wikimedia commons

We have a national butterfly! It’s called, in the vernacular, the common blue.

Its scientific name is Polyommatus, which sounds like the name of a sexual orientation our friends in the extreme Noam party would like to outlaw.

And, despite the pretty pictures, the butterfly is quite small, as butterflies go. It pales next to the African monarch or the several species of swallowtail. You might only know it’s in your garden by the patterns of leaf damage its caterpillars leave. Even the name, common blue, is hardly inspiring. I suppose we learned our lesson after naming the foppish, top-heavy hoopoe as our national bird.

It did, however, enable another tiny, shiny butterfly – our Minister of the Environment, Idit Silman – to flap her wings for a brief moment before being once again overshadowed by the giant hawk of judicial and other generally bloody reform.

You might only know it’s in your garden by the patterns of leaf damage its caterpillars leave

In the interests of promoting the Ministry of the Environment, letting the Silmanus flit again for nature photographers, and celebrating what’s left of our natural environment before we destroy it completely, I would like to propose some other national animals:

National mammal: I suggest the wild boar. It’s non-native — a testament to its drive to settle new territory and to use its defenses to get what it wants. The biggest mammal in the area (since we got rid of those lions ages ago); it’s protected by Jews and Muslims alike. The wild boar has become a familiar, much beloved, sight to Israelis, especially in the North. Those that don’t love it? Let them vote for jackals and hyenas, if they prefer.

National snake: There are plenty of snakes to choose from – even some with a bluish tinge. But I would nominate the sand-colored desert viper. Sure, it’s poisonous. It’s also endangered. It’s reminder that not everything in the country is blue-and-white, not everything appreciates getting stepped on.

National fish: There are so many – barracudas and the common stinging jellyfish to name a few – to choose from, but I nominate the Red Sea Clownfish. Not only is the name cute – and, unlike the common blue butterfly, actually associated with a part of our country – but its likeness looks great on greeting cards and book covers. The clownfish can thumb its nose at others, since it relies on the protection of the well-armed sea anemones. It gets on with the stinging anemones thanks to its ability to cover itself in slime, and, in return it feeds the anemones with clownfish s–t. Certain right-wingers will be happy to know these fish mate for life. Just don’t tell them that clownfish males are able to transition into females.

Those that don’t love it? Let them vote for jackals and hyenas

National arachnid: There are a number of beautiful spiders around our houses and gardens, but I would nominate the Black Fat-Tailed Scorpion. Related to the Black Judaicus Scorpion (the one that gets into houses) and the Arabian Fat-Tailed Scorpion, the Black Fat-Tailed is less venomous than the second, less likely to get into your Crocs than the first. This dark, armored creature mostly sits under rocks looking threatening, only stinging if necessary. Score one for the Fat-Tailed happy medium between Arabian and Judaicus.

National bacterium: (Not technically an animal, I know) While E coli is a clear front-runner, I would vote for Bacillus subtilis, a bacterium that joins together with others of their species, surrounding colonies with walled fortresses known as biofilms. These biofilms are the first line of defense against other microorganisms – especially those with anti-subtilis, terrorist tendencies.

My fellow Israelis: When you set off tomorrow to trample some national butterfly habitat and smoke out their competition, remember there are more colors out there than blue and white, and every one – even the invasive species and the wall-building bacteria – rely on a complex ecosystem to survive.

About the Author
Judy Halper is a member of a kibbutz in the center of the country. She has worked as a dairywoman, plumber and veggie cook, and as a science writer. Today she volunteers in Na'am Arab Women in the Center and works part time for Wahat al-Salam/Neve Shalom.
Related Topics
Related Posts