Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shaar Hagai...

I have always tried to laugh at myself and at the vagaries of life that come my way.  It is the way that I have managed to stay (reasonably) sane. 

But there are times when there is simply nothing to laugh about.

The Israel Lands Authority, a government agency, has filed suit against us, to demand our eviction from the place we have called home for 42 years.

I came to Israel as a naïve American (and at least, in those days, there was nothing as naïve as a young American).  A dog and animal lover from birth, I quickly met a few other unconventional people who were interested in finding a place to breed Canaan Dogs, the natural breed of Israel that still existed free living, but was already starting to disappear.  We looked for an isolated place where the dogs would not be a nuisance to anyone, and found it at Shaar Hagai.

The buildings had been built by the British in the mandate period, for the engineers and workers that were running the adjoining water pumping station, the main water line to Jerusalem.  When they left in 1947, the place was abandoned and remained empty, not used for anything other than as an occasional campground for passing Bedouins with their flocks.

When we found it, the buildings were semi ruins, and the whole place was so overgrown that it was hard to even find the buildings.

It was perfect for breeding dogs.

After much searching to try and find who was responsible for the place, we were informed that Mekorot, the national water company, had the rights to it, and we signed a rental contract with them and paid rent for a number of years.

We never had any money, so just about everything that had to be done, we did ourselves.  I laid cement, plastered, painted, built fences, paved, dug out rocks, and a whole range of other activities that had  never entered my mind as a future occupation when I was filling out college applications.  But there is no feeling quite like being able to look at something that you have built, with your own hands.  We lived for 17 years without electricity (no, not with a generator, but no electricity – a kerosene run refrigerator, storm lanterns, and no telephone), but it was a great place for the dogs.  Generations of Canaans, and of collies, my other breed, grew up here, and went on to become breed founders all over the world and valued companions and working dogs.  There are footprints preserved in some of the patches of cement, where the dogs couldn’t resist leaving their mark while it was still fresh.

Some years after we moved in, Mekorot decided that they wanted to end the contract – and then we discovered that they had no rights on the place at all.  After being transferred from one agency to another, in the end the place was the responsibility of the Israel Lands Authority.  We contacted them many times to ask to clarify and legalize the situation, with no answer.

Meanwhile, we paid taxes and tried to behave like good citizens.  An official road sign to “Shaar Hagai Kennels” was even placed on the highway just before our entrance.

Then, a few months ago, we got notification that the Lands Authority intended to file suit to evict us.  Why now, after 42 years, when we were not significant enough to notice?  Who knows?  But where we live is within the boundaries of a national park, and people are not allowed to live in a national park (not dogs either, apparently).  It doesn’t seem to matter that the area was declared a national park some years after we were already living here, and the buildings we live in were built, long before any ideas of parks, for the purpose of dwellings places for people…

I have never been very good at or interested in, politics, and the whole game of using influence.  I have only been interested in quietly breeding good dogs and enjoying them.  My daughter was born here and my grandchildren as well, and they can’t imagine having to leave.  I certainly can’t. 

The dogs tell me that they will follow me anywhere.  But the possibilities are very limited – property is extremely costly here, and people are not very tolerant of barking dogs…

So we are doing all we can to fight.  You can help by signing the petition  (see the link), and spreading the word.  If anyone knows some rock star that loves dogs…

Meanwhile the dogs help me to keep laughing.


One of our earliest Canaans in the first days of Shaar Hagai
Update:  May 18:

We now have over 40,000 signatures on the petition.  I am so grateful for this proof of the interest of people in what we are doing, and their love for the Canaan Dog and dogs in general.  I wish I had a way to thank everyone.
However, to date, there is no change, the ILA is continuing with the court case and still refuses to even talk to us.
So we ask you all to continue passing the petition on, and spreading the word, in the hope that in the end, we will be able to go on with what we are doing here. In just the last month, we have managed to bring in three wild born dogs from totally new bloodlines...if we have to leave, this will end...


  1. Didn't JFK Jr. own one? I know this is a long shot, but why not trying to contact the Kennedy family about the Canaan?

  2. Since you were there before it was established as a park, is there any type of "grandfather" law that can be implemented? I would think that tours of the kennels and teaching people about the breed would be a great service for the "park" to offer. Plus, wouldn't the buildings be of historic importance?

  3. I put the petition on my Facebook page and friends are signing it -- BUT one friend said half of her list of friends here in Israel could not because there is no Hebrew-language petition. Is there a Hebrew petition somewhere? If so, is there a link to it? If not, is tehre a way to start a Hebrew language petition?