11/23/2005

"And the Dove Found No Rest..."

You can't make this stuff up.
The following article appeared in several Lebanese media outlets:

Kfar Tibnit, Lebanon - A courier pigeon with a love letter from a girl thanking her boyfriend for a "terrific night they spent together" has flown across the border from Israel, triggering bird flue scare throughout southern Lebanon.

postal carrier _pigeon 4.gifThe love letter which was from a girl thanking her boyfriend for a "terrific night they spent together" has flown across the border from Israel and landed on the roof of Ahmed Kamel Zaytoun in south Lebanon's Kfar Tibnit township on Friday. He found the letter concealed in an iron ring with figures identifying the trained carrier.

According to local media, the letter was written in English and Hebrew. The girl from Israel's upper Galilee panhandle speaks fondly of the night she spent with her lover, thanking him and asking him to acknowledge receiving her message to her e-mail address.

postal carrier _pigeon 3.gifShe also wrote in the message a postal address in the Kafar Qassem district in the Galilee, the Beirut daily newspaper As Safir reported. But the name of the lover and his address were not mentioned.

Scared that the pigeon may be carrying a bird flu virus, Zaytoun, who had no difficulty catching the love messenger, rushed it to the police station of Nabatiyeh town, which in turn rushed it to the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture laboratory in Al Fanar to determine whether it is clean or contaminated.

The Beirut ANB TV network, which aired a full coverage of the pigeon being seized and inserted in a big cage by Zaytoun, said the incident sent a bird flu scare sweeping across the region. The population is awaiting an assurance from the ministry of agriculture, ANB said.

Sources: Naharnet, ANB, Assafir, Ya Libnan

The real story? The following letter was sent by an administrator from the MMY (Michlelet Mevasseret Yerushalayim) seminary for post-high school English-speaking girls:

Last week MMY went on its annual Galil Tiyul. And as we always do, we went on Wednesday night to Mitzpe Hoshaya - to the "Kfar Kedem" site – and rode donkeys, made pita, had a bar b q and ate in a tent (all of course in ancient garb). The whole idea of this site is to recreate what Jewish life was like in the times of the Tanaim when Rav Yehuda Hanasi compiled the Mishna in Tzipori (the mountain across from Hoshaya).

This year, there was something new. As we were leaving, Menachem – the owner of the place, gets us together and says he wants to hear feedback from us the next morning about how we enjoyed our visit. But we shouldn't use modern technology to contact him, rather we should use a homing pigeon. And sure enough he hands us a bird in a box and says "tomorrow morning attach a note to the leg of the bird using this letterhead i am giving you, and send it back from Tzefat. It will take about 2 hours to return home and i will call you to tell you i got your note and then i will email you a copy so you know it is for real".

So sure enough we take the boxed bird with us to the hotel in tzefat, the girls care for it overnight, and we are ready to send it back the next morning. The girls called the bird " Uga" since it was in a box and it looked like a cake-box.

Thursday morning we drove a bit north of Tzefat and at 9:35am we had a whole ceremony to say farewell to our feathered friend. The note was attached and read something like "We love you Uga. Thank you for a wonderful evening. Rabbi Katz you are soo cool (ed. This was an inside joke from earlier that day) Esther Goldstein is our backup pitcher (ed. Also an inside mmy joke). We look forward to your email reply when you get this " It had BS"D on the top and the school email address.

Moshe Ben Baruch, our tour guide who knows everything, quoted the various pesukim in Tanach where the homing pigeon , the "Yona" is used as an allegory for Am Yisrael who knows ultimately how to come back to Eretz yisrael (for example – see the haftara for Parshat Ki Tavo). And after a quick chorus of the song "Uf Gozal" we sent Uga on his way.

But he did not return home. We called and called but the answer was "he didn't come back yet". The girls were very bothered and kept bugging me to call more. But he just wasn't going to come back and at some point we gave up hope and assumed that he was dead.

But then we got the newspaper this morning! Maariv dedicated most of its back page to a story it picked up from the…. Lebanese Press! (and I just heard a rumor that it was on CNN TV in the usa !) The article is long and in Hebrew (I am trying to get a digital copy to send you) but basically the bird landed on the roof of Achmed Kamal Zeitun in the town of "Kfar Tavnit" in Lebanon. They assumed that the message was from an Israeli arab girl from the town of "Kefar Kassam" (notice it looks like kfar kedem) and was being sent to her boyfriend in Lebanon to "thank him for a wonderful evening". But others claimed it was a coded message and thus the bird is being checked at the Lebanese secret service and the agriculture ministry. Everyone was stumped as to why anyone would use a pigeon in today's modern world – especially considering that the message asked for a reply via email!! And of course it was written in English, and had BS"D on the top. Israeli "experts" were stumped because "everyone knows women don't use pigeons". (I am not embellishing!) . And also "it cant be that the bird just got lost. These birds don't make mistakes". Experts were also stumped as they were not aware that letterhead is used for messages on birds.

I contacted both Maariv and CNN is getting a bcc of this email. The Maariv writer wrote a follow up piece with the full story about our American Seminary with pictures of us sending off the bird. We hope it gets published! And if CNN would like to follow this up – I will be in the United States as of Sunday!!!!

As always, the truth is far, far stranger than fiction.
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