The epic tale of enemies coming together and collaborating to save the life of an eagle:
A rebel chief with a passion for birds of prey captures an eagle on the battlefield.
Realizing that the bird is an endangered species and is being tracked by animal conservation experts from the bird’s place of origin, the rebel reaches across enemy lines, to the experts who know how to save the bird’s life. Together they embark on a journey through three different battle zones, setting aside personal gain and deeply embedded traditions in order to save the life of one magnificent animal.
This may sound like the synopsis for a movie (a super-duper, eco-friendly, anti-war, let’s all be green movie). It’s not.
This is just another day in Israel.
Few would have dreamt this eagle’s breathtaking journey was possible and yet, it happened and now he is back in Israel, in the hands of experts who will nurse him back to health.
The eagle had been released back in to the wild four months ago. Two weeks ago, the bird’s tracking device could no longer be seen on the radar. No one knew that he had flown over the border, in to Syria. Not until Gal Lusky was contacted by a Syrian who told her: “We have an Israeli eagle.”
Gal is the founder of Israeli Flying Aid, an NGO that has been providing humanitarian aid to Syrians for the past six years (since the war began). IFA was founded in 2005 and focuses on life saving aid and relief to communities in areas stricken by natural disaster or territorial conflicts, specializing in countries that lack diplomatic relations with Israel.
The eagle was being held by a Syrian rebel commander (for more on who the “rebels” are please read: Who are the good guys? ). Luckily for the eagle, the commander has a predilection for birds of prey and some experience in handling them. The commander proudly told Israelis: “I saw the bird on the battlefield when we were preparing ambushes against ISIS. I had a gun but I didn’t kill him. I walked up to him very slowly and caught him with my hands. He was a living creature, a living soul.”
Generally speaking, Arab culture does not promote the idea of animals as pets or anything to do with animal rights. Animals are seen as something to be used: a food source, a source of profit or a status symbol. The commander could have easily decided to keep the eagle as a status symbol but he realized that the bird needed medical care and, seeing the tracking device that marked the eagle as S-98, he understood that the people caring for the bird up to that point were Israelis. He knew that the best thing for the eagle would be to return him to Israel. But how?
Through their contact via Israeli Flying Aid the Syrian rebels sent notice that they were holding the eagle and requested instructions on how to properly care for him. They were afraid that someone would steal the eagle and try to sell him. Following instructions from Israel’s Nature and Parks Authority, the rebel commander instructed his soldiers to provide the eagle with two chickens to eat every day. This is extraordinary considering that the soldiers, who were suffering from lack of food, provided the chickens for the eagle while they ate bread during the weeks it took to return the eagle to Israel. They sent video of the eagle eating to Israel, to prove that they were taking proper care of him (see in the Channel 2 item linked below).
The Syrians had to travel through not one but THREE different militia territories before they were able to hand the eagle over to the IDF.
So, what does this story mean? That there are good guys on the other side? That peace is possible?
It means that Israeli compassion to Syrians in need has made an impact. Now there are many in Syria who understand that Israelis are not the monsters of Islamist propaganda but rather people who strive to ease the suffering of others – human and animal alike. It means that there are those who have learned from Israel’s example, that it is possible to choose compassion over killing, to choose to collaborate even with the enemies on the other side of the fence.
“I had a gun in my hands but I caught him with my hands, I didn’t kill him.”
Does this story mean that the unnamed Syrian rebel commander is a “good guy”? No. But he did do something good for this eagle.
Save one life and it is as if you have saved the world. All life is sacred – that of our neighbors living next door, that of the Syrians fighting on the other side of our border and that of an eagle who just wants to be able to fly free. All lives matter. Here, that’s not a slogan, it’s just another day in Israel.
This is the news story as it was reported on Israel’s Channel 2: