How sad on all sides!
Lost dog reflects hatred in Palestinian-Israeli conflict
Occupied Jerusalem: A few months ago some Canadian friends living in occupied Jerusalem lost their dog.
Still a puppy and unaccustomed to city life (not to mention not that well behaved), Charlie ran off one night, terrified by the fireworks at the start of Ramadan.
The friends, journalists working in the region, live in an area called Abu Tor, a mixed Jewish-Arab neighbourhood on the edge of East Jerusalem – the Palestinian side of the city.
The terrace of their house has sweeping views over the Old City, the hills of the West Bank and down towards the Dead Sea.
Unsure whether Charlie had run east or west – that is further into East Jerusalem and towards the West Bank or in the direction of the Jewish side of the city and the rest of Israel – they took a blanket approach to trying to find her.
They put posters on lamp-posts, took meandering drives and walks through nearby districts and placed an advertisement with a photograph in the main Palestinian newspaper asking if anyone had seen Charlie.
For days there was almost complete silence: no definitive sightings, no hot tips, not even any good clues.
Then they heard from the newspaper. There had been some responses to the ad, a man called to say, but Charlie’s owners were not likely to be pleased with them.
A group of Palestinians being held at a prison in northern Israel had called and left abusive messages, saying: “Why do you give a damn about a stupid dog? Why don’t you stop wasting your time and instead help us get out of here.”
Others had called and just barked into the phone, laughing and shouting: “I’m Charlie, come and get me.”
The distress and sense of misunderstanding only got worse. In the days that followed, when Charlie’s owners ran into neighbours in Abu Tor, they were offered snippets of advice. At one point some Palestinians living in a nearby street explained that if Charlie had run west – that is, towards the Jewish side of the city – she was bound to be in trouble.
“Jews treat their dogs terribly, you know,” one of them counselled in a conspiratorial whisper. “Jews steal everything and if they steal land, they’ll steal your dog.”
Jewish neighbours were equally severe. “If she’s run towards the West Bank then there’s not much hope. You know what the Arabs do to dogs, don’t you?” one woman said, suggesting that if Charlie were caught by Palestinians she had every chance of being killed. While astonished and depressed by the feelings of mutual misunderstanding and accusation their search had thrown up, Charlie’s owners pressed on with their hunt.
Friends were on constant lookout for an energetic black Labrador-mix doing the rounds. Everything on four legs began to look like Charlie.
The owners eventually enlisted a contact to put them in touch with the West Bank’s most notorious dog thief. They travelled to a dingy spot on the outskirts of Ramallah one day to see what the man had in his pound.
In dozens of filthy cages there were scores of miserable, flea-bitten dogs, barely able to stand upright let alone bark for attention. But there was no sign of Charlie.
Charlie has never returned. All her owners are left with is the sense of mutual suspicion that stands between the Arabs and Jews living side-by-side in their neighbourhood.
They also have a new dog. Having returned to the pound so many times to look for Charlie, they eventually fell for Rosie. She’s not allowed off the leash.
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