Rachel Neiman
January 24, 2014

Street photos and profiles are the subjects that most interest photographer Orna Naor. Sometimes, her work takes her to the streets of Jerusalem on the eve of Yom Kippur. Other times, passerbys on Tel Aviv’s streets just beg to be in the frame…

Naor will be presenting a solo exhibition of animal photos next week at Galleria 100 in Ra’anana. Some of those presented are well-loved pets.

Sadly, others are unfortunate strays. These so-called “dumb animals” can’t speak but their eyes seem to communicate to us through Naor’s lens.

She’s captured the proprietary cattitude of Tel Aviv’s feral felines, a population so omnipresent that it consistently surprises newcomers; inevitably they ask, “Why does Israel have so many stray cats?”

Some say that cats were brought over in the 1930s during the British mandate to kill off the rat population. However, its been proven the Middle East is the source of the wildcat subspecies Felis silvestris lybica from which all the world’s 600 million house cats — and the regional Sand Cat — are descended. So it would seem that the cats have always been here.

According to CHAI, a US nonprofit formed to improve the condition and treatment of Israel’s animals and Hakol Chai, CHAI’s Israeli sister charity, “Israel, with its security and economic problems, has only recently turned its attention to animal protection issues.

Among the challenges faced by CHAI and other charities of similar purpose: “Israel has a severe stray cat and dog overpopulation problem because of a hot climate that allows animals to exist on the edge of survival, and because of a lack of spaying and neutering. The few small-animal shelters in Israel receive little or no municipal or national government support and survive on donations from the public. Veterinary medical drugs and supplies are expensive because they must be imported. Many immigrants to Israel have come from countries with no tradition of concern for animal welfare. Humane education is essential to foster a positive ethic about animals in children.”

Last year, Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development committed NIS 4.5 million (about $1.27 million) towards the spaying and neutering of 45,000 feral cats by the end of May 2014. Given that Tel Aviv alone has an estimated 39,000 stray cats, the effort is welcome, if insufficient, but certainly a step in the right direction.

CHAI adds that, “Concerned Israelis are now working hard to make the Jewish principle of tsa’ar ba’alei hayim, the mandate not to cause ‘pain to any living creature,’ a part of daily life in the country.”

Orna Naor’s animal photography exhibition opens next week on January 27 at Galleria 100, at 100 Ahuza St., Ra’anana. Proceeds from the sale of works will be donated to Israeli animal shelters. For more information, click here.  

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