A public service Facebook post of the Beit Shemesh municipality (located 19 miles west of Jerusalem) Monday night became the vortex of protests and old animosities in a city torn by ancient strife.
The announcement, which has gathered 367 shares and 741 comments overnight, in what many in Israel consider to be a rather sleepy town, appeared innocuous enough:
“Attention of city residents in general and owners of dogs in particular,
“As a continuation of the municipality’s extensive campaign against the phenomenon of roaming dogs […] in accordance with the Ministry of Agriculture regulators […].
“Following several serious incidents in which abandoned and wandering dogs became feral and attacked and injured city residents to the point of mortal danger, the Ministry of Agriculture has acceded to the municipality’s requests and allowed the Central Enforcement and Investigation Unit (the Hebrew acronym is Pitzu’ach) to fire on dogs using hunting rifles.
“The shooting of feral dogs is permitted under the Rabies Ordinance and will be carried out by skilled snipers of the Pitzu’ach unit.
“Residents are asked to make sure that their dogs do not go wandering alone!
“Said activity will take place from 3 to 7 AM.”
The reason behind this campaign is that the feral dog situation in Beit Shemesh has spiraled out of control, after all other, more humane, methods to contain the dogs failed. Beit Shemesh residents are afraid to go outside, people have had to get rabies shots after being attacked, and parents are afraid to let their children out for fear of them being harmed.
But those real-world problems didn’t stop the animal activists from outside the town from weighing in…
Tamar Aharon, from the town of Yeruham, whose Facebook picture includes her dog, was wondering if it made sense to post the announcement late at night and then go out with guns blazing.
Maya Cohen, whose Facebook picture features only a doggie, announced that she was on her way to Beit Shemesh to “stop the horror,” and also provided a phone numbers for Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Habayit Hayehudi).
Dana Cassidy of the Animal Liberation Front, announced that she, too, was driving over, and, naturally, “You’ll have to shoot us first.”
Yoav Lewy added a reasonable tone to the discussion, writing, “Primitive filth. There are other ways to deal with the problem before you start killing animals. It’s unbelievable that there are people who go out tonight on a killing shift of poor dogs. Where is your conscience?”
Michal V. Weinstein, a former graphic designer, stated bluntly: “You are Satan incarnate.”
Daniela Cohen wondered how “In the State of Israel, a people that has gone through the Holocaust, to see that such a thing is permitted.”
Milana Koren, a practical sort, suggested, “There are also menacing and unpleasant people – had they decided to dilute them by sniper shots in the head, would that have been legitimate?”
And Noga Harari Gorén called Beit Shemesh a dark, medieval city.
Our impression was that the vast majority of comments came from outside Beit Shemesh. The city has had its share of culture wars, split as it is among Haredim, Modern Orthodox and secular Israelis, as well as between Anglo-Saxon olim and folks who’ve lived there since the 1950s. Undoubtedly, the Facebook post was made by someone who did not take all of this background information into account before telling everybody to watch out for snipers roaming their streets shooting feral dogs.
Naturally, there have been calls to boycott Beit Shemesh (although what the effect of that would be is hard to gauge, since this is not exactly a magnet for tourists).
Beit Shemesh is sister-city to Ramapo, New York, Cocoa, Florida, Fairfax, Virginia, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania. If you live in one of those cities, support the cause of feral dogs roaming the street in homicidal packs and would like to start your own bunch of trouble – go for it.