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May 27, 2008


THE RAPTORS AND I by Rachel Saperstein, Neve Dekalim/Nitzan

Months ago I had received an outraged call from a Jerusalem Post reporter.

“Do you realize that by settling in the Lachish region you would cause an ecological disaster to the raptors?”

I listened, aghast at the outrage I was about to inflict on the unsuspecting raptors.

Raptors, migrating to Europe, stop in the Lachish region to nest directly on the ground, give birth to their fledglings and together resume their flight. With humans interfering with their nesting sites, or even coming close to them, the raptors abandon their eggs and… no more raptors.

I, Rachel Saperstein, and my homeless brothers and sisters of Gush Katif, desperately needing nesting grounds of our own, may cause the extinction of our raptor friends with the development of the Lachish area.

Uhhh… What are raptors, you ask?

Birds of prey, I answer. Owls, eagles, vultures, falcons, ravens. They eat mice, voles and all manner of creeping, crawling creatures.

Truly disturbed by the cruelty I was about to perpetrate I was determined [just as you are] to learn more about raptors.

During my two week trip to the USA I spent a weekend in Edison, New Jersey visiting family. The unveiling of the stone for my brother on the anniversary of his death was our main concern.

My niece Chana, a lover of all creatures, informed me that there was a Raptor Sanctuary in New Jersey [I’ll give you all the information at the end of this blog]. On Monday we headed off for a visit.

A rustic building near a parking zone brought us to an office and a large classroom. Pupils were standing two by two with their teachers waiting their turn to hear a lecture on owls. Stuffed owls stood at the ready on demonstration tables. We asked to stay but were told these lectures were geared for children and had been paid for in advance. I assured them my level was childlike, and we would be willing to pay – but rules are rules – no admittance.

We began our short trek to the aviaries. The cages were large and well kept. In each cage was a raptor. Each bird had arrived injured but had been restored to health. They had not been restored to the wild as they were still incapable of fending for themselves. Dead mice littered the floor of the cages.

The Raptor Trust, as it is called, sustains itself on public donations. Most cages displayed a plaque attesting to the donor and usually in memory of a loved one. An engraved sign gave a case history of each bird. Apparently the sanctuary has done wonders keeping these birds from extinction.

We greeted each raptor. Chana, who loves to talk to animals, said “Good morning, Mr. Raven” and “Hello, Mr. Bald Eagle” and by golly they grunted back a reply.

We went to the Gift Shop and Information Center to gather as much material as possible so that I could bring the information back to our own people. I was determined that we, too, would have a bird sanctuary and a learning center to teach Israeli children about the raptors.

I asked to speak to the founder and director of the Raptor Trust, Dr. Len Soucy. I told him of our people’s plight and need for homes. “We and the birds need nests.”

The director looked at me thoughtfully and said “With all the troubles facing Israel, this is your number one problem? Build your homes and leave open land for the birds. They will find a way to reproduce.” I thanked him – truly a man of wisdom.

I’m back in Nitzan once again. I gave Motti Shomron, our man in the battle for Lachish, all the brochures I had collected. Motti, the supreme environmentalist, loves the idea of creating a Raptor Education Center and we, people and birds, will live together and thrive.

For those wishing to visit the Raptor Trust in New Jersey, check The address is 1390 White Bridge Road, Millington, NJ 07946. Tel: 908-647-2353


OPERATION DIGNITY needs your help to strengthen the people of Gush Katif. Please make your checks payable to Central Fund for Israel and earmarked for Operation Dignity. Send them to

Central Fund for Israel, 980 Sixth Avenue, New York, NY 10018, USA


Central Fund for Israel, 13 Hagoel Street, Efrat 90435, Israel

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