Sunday, July 19, 2009

Street cats in Jerusalem

When I first got here in June I arrived just in time for Hebrew Book Week (שבוע הספר). I went off with a friend to the book fair at Gan ha-Pa'amon and bought a few books, including on on the development of the Old City of Jerusalem during the 19th century (Yehoshua Ben-Arieh, Jerusalem in the 19th Century: The Old City, published by Yad Izhak Ben Zvi Institute in 1984). Another one is called חתולי הרחוב שלי ("My Street Cats") by Raphaella Bilski (published by Carmel, 2007). It's about her adventures with Jerusalem street cats over the last 14 years. She is a professor of government at the Hebrew University, focusing on politicaly philosophy.

This is a very sweet book, which reveals quite a bit about the author as well as the cats she writes about. She writes about the first cat who came to her garden - Kitsoshi, about how families of cats established themselves in her garden and in the cat pergola which she set up for them, about the friendship between cats (including two female cats who raised their kittens together), about the trauma when her neighbors become angry with her because she had so many cats in the garden and she has to send some of them away, about the territories of cats, about how the mothers train their kittens to be good hunters, etc. In the back of the book she gives several cat genealogies, including one for Kitzoshi. She gets very involved in the life of the cats, worries about them, raises abandoned kittens by hand, cries when they die - she is truly a fine cat lady and expresses well the untoward affection that some of us develop for cats.

Elms in the Yard, a Jerusalem blog, frequently posts photos of Jerusalem cats.

To the left is a photo I took in 2004 of a street cat in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.


  1. This sounds like a really interesting story about cats and the magical relationship they can have with people.

  2. I've just moved here from Johannesburg and two street cats have adopted me. Within a week their fur and self-esteem has risen 100%. Waiting to see what happens when my two domesticated cats arrive tomorrow. Michelle Friedman