CAT BLOGGING FROM SYRIA….OK, I’ll admit it: I’m not really much of a cat person. (Sorry, Kevin). They’re just too hard to read, and a little too stealthy for my taste.
But war means a bit of boundary-stretching for everyone. So when my friend Lee ? who lived in Beirut until an emergency taxi ride across the Syrian border late last month ? asked me to escort his two cats from their Syrian foster home to his temporary new digs in Jerusalem, I didn’t see how I could refuse; I couldn’t abandon Sid (a fellow Brooklynite) or Samantha (a needy Beirut native) in their hour of need. So I loaded both cats, a half dozen bags Lee had managed to salvage from his Lebanese apartment, and a salad spinner into the backseat of a creaky Syrian taxi shortly after dawn a few days ago, and headed for the border in time for the opening of the Jordanian side. I made it to Amman by breakfast, and met up with another Israel-bound journalist for the remainder of the trip.
Now, I’m no pet psychologist, but in my considered opinion, the cat carrier may have unearthed some unpleasant refugee memories for Sid and Samantha; they did not react well to the sight of it, and vocally registered their unhappiness for a while once they found themselves inside it. It wasn’t tough to see their point of view: I’d be unhappy too, if I were dragged across two international boundaries against my will, in taxis of dubious provenance, with two separate drivers chosen more for level of cat tolerance than navigating skill. But I kept the air conditioning directed at the carrier the whole trip, and the two of them settled into a sort of offended silence a few miles off the Jordanian border.
In case you’re wondering how the journey went: I’m still not entirely sure the Syrians noticed I was transporting a pair of live animals out of the country ? and if they did, they probably wouldn’t have cared in the least, or might have offered me a few more for good measure. (The Middle East may have a lot of problems, but a cat shortage isn’t one of them ? pretty much every street corner or well-appointed outdoor cafe features a handful of the mangiest, sorriest-looking felines you’ve ever seen.) As for the Israeli crossing: I’m not ashamed to say I took advantage of the obvious cute factor here to ease us through. (Look, when you’re responsible for bringing a pair of journalists, half a dozen Lebanese bags you didn’t pack yourself, a Syrian salad spinner and a couple of Beiruti cats across Israeli land borders with less than ten minutes to spare… you do what you have to.)
So here are my feline travel companions, just a few miles from the Allenby crossing, about six hours or so into our journey. I can assure you that no cats were harmed in the production of this photo ? and both Sid and Samantha are currently resting comfortably in their new Jerusalem digs.