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  • When I can't make sense of the human -- and that's most of the time -- I turn to other animals.
    As though they can reveal secrets. Tell inside jokes. Whisper wisdom.
    Let me in on it without giving me away.

    As a child it meant slipping beneath the dinner table to converse with the family dog and cats.
    It has meant gazing out car windows at birds.
    It has meant walking the woods to find the wild.

    In Israel and Jordan at first confusion, I turn to these old friends.
  • Tel Aviv dogs tell me this:

    They're brethren to the pampered set of New York, of Paris, of London. Secular city = Little dogs all tricked out.
  • Tel Aviv dogs tell me this, too:

    In the artist quarter, they're more San Francisco than New York.
    They share stories I know. Bark easy answers.
  • In Jordan, they speak rural Vermont-ish, dreaming the day away, gazing at fences, at places they aren't supposed to be. Loner but not lonely.

    I think I'm getting somewhere.
  • Until I see no dogs in Jerusalem. Not one.

    And that throws me for a moment until two horses weave through the chaotic traffic of East Jerusalem. Right there at the round-about. Right there:
  • And birds pop up to tell me all I need to know.
  • I'm getting a picture. I get it. I get it. I get it.


    But here gnaws a problem with my story. A sore tooth.


    I've left something out.

    I've left out the cats.
    The cats of Jerusalem. Of Tel Aviv. Of Nazareth and of Bethlehem. Of Safed and of Akko. Of the kibbutz along the Dead Sea. Cats and cats and cats. Cats upon cats. It's raining cats in Israel and in the Palestinian territories. And in Jordan. In every town we visit. Catscatscatscatscats. Catscatscatscatscats. I'm talking cats. You've never seen anything like it. At least I haven't. And I don't know what to do with all these cats.
  • Beautiful cats.
    Well-fed cats.
    Free and fat and noisy and friendly cats.

    Nothing slinky or slitty about them. Nothing feral or funky. Nothing weird or wild.
    These cats move between worlds. Without airs. Without allegiance. Without anxiety.

    They claw apart my sleek story, my elegant explanation, my understated understanding. They smile. They purr. They tell me to bring fish next time.
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