Why the Israeli Canaanites Moved to Italy

Several months ago, I wrote an article on the history of the Canaan dog, Israel’s national dog. They have been a part of Hebrew history for more than 3,000 years. Painted pictures of them found in ancient Egyptian tombs and pyramids bear testimony to their antiquity. Said to be the dogs who followed Moses and the Israelite slaves out of Egyptian bondage, they served their masters well as guard dogs who protected herds and cattle.

After the exile by the Romans in 70 C.E., the dogs became pariahs wandering through the desert in search of food. Most of them found their way into Beduin camps where they were used as guard dogs against intruders.

In 1934, Dr. Rudolfina Menzel, a world renowned specialist in pariah and feral breeds, emigrated from Vienna to Palestine. In the Haifa region where she established her home she trekked across empty fields in search of pariah dogs. One day she spotted two wolf-life dogs in appearance and she attempted to become close to them in order to examine them.

These dogs were apprehensive of strangers and barked loudly at her approach. Every day she followed them with bags of food which she threw at them. As they came to eat the food, she was able to photograph them and from watching them at close hand she noted their unusual characteristics.

One day she was able to capture a litter of their pups and brought them into her home. She raised them and trained them and they became loveable pets. It was Dr. Menzel’s conclusion that these dogs were the descendants of the ancient feral breed. She named them klavim C’naanim… Canaan dogs.

In 1936 she was asked to supply several of these dogs to the Haganah to be used as guard dogs. They do not attack nor bite but their intensive barking and howling reveals the appearance of strangers and is an alarm for the soldiers to be on alert. Today these beautiful dogs are used by our military and police forces specifically to be guard and alarm dogs.

One of Dr. Menzel’s students, Myrna Shiboleth, took over the responsibility of raising and breeding these dogs. She found an abandoned British building in Shaar Hagai on the road to Jerusalem in 1970 and moved in with her dogs where she then established the Kennels of Shaar Hagai, providing these lovely animals to serve both as household pets (they are marvelous with children) and as alarm dogs for the security services.

For 46 years Myrna has been breeding the Canaan dog at her home in Shaar Hagai. Recently the Lands Administration threatened her and her dogs with eviction. The kennels of Shaar Hagai were required to be closed.

Myrna appealed to the courts but for several years a decision has been delayed on her appeal. The bureaucracy did not consider the Canaan dog important to Israel’s security, have not officially recognized them as Israel’s national dog even though the Israel Kennel Association, the American Kennel Club and dog associations around the world have granted the Canaan such official recognition.

Despondent and financially broken in legal fees and appeals, Myrna had no other choice. She and all her dogs have been invited by a Canaan breeder in Italy to move there, guaranteeing Myrna a place to live, sufficient land for her Canaan dogs to roam and to flourish, and excellent facilities to continue her 46 years of expertise breeding.

Our Lands Administration should hang their heads in shame for the cruelty of their eviction and for their ignorant failure to recognize the importance of a national dog.

From now on our beautiful, loyal and protective Canaan dogs will be barking in Italian. Hebrew will now be an alien language in an alien country. This is an unforgivable shame upon the bureaucratic actions of our infamous Lands Authority.

What would Moses say about the maltreatment of the loyal dogs who followed him out of Egypt?

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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