Our dog, Lucy, fell in love with the rescue kitten as soon as he leapt around the lounge, his back arched, his tail up, his miaow loud, persistent and yet adorable. Immediately, Lucy licked him to death and the bond was unbreakable. Since then they’re forever together, even taking walks with me around the kibbutz.
Dog, me and cat in tow. Or I should say, cats in tow.
The British, Persian cat I’ve had for five and a half years who came with us to Israel was at first not at all impressed with Lucy. He had been the boss and then this rescue dog appears from nowhere? How dare he! He hissed at her, and she chased him until he found a safe place on top of the fridge.
But slowly slowly, as I showed Lucy how Smokey Joe was also part of our pack, and a very loved member of it , she started to accept him. First a sniff here, a sniff there. Then Smokey Joe stopped hissing every time he walked past Lucy. Then there was mutual tolerance. And this has finally turned into friendship. When Lucy returns home after a trip, both Santi and Smokey Joe run to the door and she greets them with a gentle nuzzle; the two cats then join us for an evening walk around the kibbutz. Okay, I get some funny looks, but at least this way I can blame it on the animals and not get paranoid it’s because I’m in my pyjamas.
The crazy thing is Lucy still chases other cats. Fortunately she never catches them. She’s very determined, that’s for sure. So it’s fascinating how my dog loves the cats she knows. If she could speak, and we accused her of ‘catism’, she would respond with: ‘Some of my best friends are cats!’
Some of our Jewish friends here in Israel are not as open-minded as Lucy. We’ve had the same conversation with people, time after time, who have asked my husband and me why we are bothering to work so hard for peace, why on earth we think peace is possible, when no Arabs are trustworthy, when they are all Jew haters and all want to kill us.
Then they spend a good deal of time completely berating them.
But I know what to ask next. “And do you know any Arabs?”
The answer without exception is always, ‘No’.
After we’ve explained how many Arabs/Palestinians we know, how many of them are good friends, how we work tirelessly with them to bring peace to this region, and how their culture is so similar, how we are in fact brothers and sisters, they seem to lose their confidence a little…
And it truly is a wonderful day if we manage to introduce a friend, or in last week’s case, a member of the family, who’s never met an Arab before. My niece from England came to stay with us. She studies at Emanuel in North London, where they are taught about the Jews in Israel, and our Jewish state. And that’s it.
It was so emotional for me to see her chatting and enjoying the food and hospitality of our close friends in Bir El-Maksour, and suddenly understanding how this region is so rich because it is the home of so many different cultures…
…who really can live together.
The Middle East is a wonderful place. But it takes understanding, compassion, openheartedness, and kindness to live here in the way we need, to give our children and our children’s children the safety, security and peace they so deserve.
Our dog Lucy is the leading light in this if you ask me. She’s recognised once you make friends with ‘the enemy’, you begin to love them.
And that, my friends, is all it takes.