A n Israeli reader of the English Mishpacha recently complained that he was uninterested in articles about the tuition crisis in America. How could an issue that has immense impact on tens of thousands of Jewish families not be of interest I wondered.

But I could forgive an American reader who felt that the wild dogs currently harassing residents of Ramat Beit Shemesh is a bit too parochial. And I confess that the importance of the issue for me has a good deal to do with the fact that I have four married couples and a healthy percentage of my grandchildren living in Ramat Beit Shemesh Gimmel one of the afflicted neighborhoods.

Five or six people have been attacked and had to undergo a painful regimen of rabies shots so far and many others have been chased by these dogs which are large and menacing. Parents will only let their children play in the parking lots adjacent to their buildings. A 12-year-old boy was recently dragged to the ground and bitten six times. An elderly lady fell and broke her collarbone when surprised on the street by a dog pack and others have run blindly into the street in the same situation.

One of my daughters-in-law who leaves for work early in the morning has been chased and had to swing her purse hard to drive away wild dogs on at least one occasion. Another won't get off a bus at night unless her husband is there to meet her. Though the dogs which travel in packs of between three and nine are most prevalent at night they have also appeared at the public parks where kids play in the afternoon.

So far all the Beit Shemesh municipality’s efforts to rid the various neighborhoods of the dog packs over a period of two years have been unsuccessful. Dr. Maya Kimchi the municipal veterinarian began her tenure by vowing that there was no way Beit Shemesh would resort to shooting the dogs with deadly fire. But after six months of futile efforts to shoot them with tranquilizer guns and capture them she too has admitted that there is no alternative. The city also tried large cages baited with meat but those were stolen by animal-rights activists. Finally the municipality petitioned the Agricultural Ministry to dispatch sniper teams in the early hours of the morning to shoot the dogs.

A warning posted by the municipality to pet owners to make sure that their dogs were inside the night of the planned shootings set off a frenzied response on social media by animal lovers castigating Beit Shemesh as a “dark medieval city” and the mayor as “Satan incarnate.”

“I hope your G-d gives Ramat Beit Shemesh a bloodbath ” one animal-rights supporter offered.

Even Sara Netanyahu the wife of the prime minister got into the act by posting a message urging Agricultural Minister Uriel Ariel to find a better more sensitive way to protect the public. And as inevitably happens in Israel petitions were filed to the Supreme Court and an order issued to block the shootings at least for the time being.

I GREW UP with not one but two Norwegian Elkhounds. And almost 60 years later I can still remember the burning tears in my eyes when Old Yeller the eponymous canine hero of a Disney movie of the same name had to be put down after saving its youthful owner from a rabid wolf and contracting rabies himself.

Yet I find myself amazed by those animal lovers who can conjure up so much sympathy for wild potentially rabid dogs but none for the thousands of children and adults terrorized by them. Do any of them have children of their own? Can they imagine what it is like to feel imprisoned in one’s own home afraid to allow one’s children to go to the local park or even to accompany them there?

In general necessity has forced upon Israelis the recognition that a society’s first imperative is survival and that ensuring the survival of one’s loved ones and oneself often entails difficult choices. That willingness to deal with the world as it is not as we might wish it were is one aspect of Israel’s greater health and brighter future compared to other Western nations. Should the moral preening of animal-rights activists become more typical in Israel I would be fearful for Israel’s long-time survival.

The anti-human bias so prevalent in Western society today has not infected Israel to the same extent. Israel’s fertility rate is by far the highest of any of the developed countries in the OECD and over twice that of many Western European countries.

The Western environmental movement consistently portrays man as an unwelcome interloper into pristine nature and the Greens’ most consistent policy recommendation is that we all have fewer children. And make no mistake the animal-rights activists share that anti-human bias. At the first hearing in the Supreme Court over the dog issue one of the animal-rights activists hissed at a Ramat Beit Shemesh resident “Why is your life more important than a dog’s life?”

Another activist wondered how Jews whose people went through the Holocaust could shoot dogs. But she had her Holocaust analogies all mixed up. The Nazis were great animal lovers; it was human beings they killed with industrial efficiency. On a visit to Berlin in the ’20s Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz saw dogs dressed in pants and sweaters and commented “Where they treat animals as humans they will slaughter humans as animals ” citing the verse in Hoshea (13:2). “Those who slaughter men will kiss their calves.”

If common sense and a preference for children over wild dogs does not prevail soon in Ramat Beit Shemesh it is time to be very worried about Israel’s future.

Thanks for Clarifying 

I doubt that regular readers have any idea how indebted I feel to them. The excitement of every insight or experience is vastly increased by knowing that there are thousands with whom I can share it.

The debt however goes beyond that. I know from personal experience that but for my readers the thoughts would stop coming. I first started writing columns in the late ’80s and early ’90s followed by a six-year break when I focused entirely on books with the exception of three or four longer Jewish Observer pieces each year.

During that hiatus the ideas that had once formed the germs of columns dried up completely. Then when I started writing weekly for the Jerusalem Post in 1997 the ideas suddenly returned in profusion. For a long period I was writing in three venues a week. The more columns the more ideas.

There is yet another more direct source of indebtedness to my readers. They often provide a valuable corrective or another perspective to something I have written. This week alone I heard from a writer for another publication for Torah Jewry from a Belzer chassid and from one of the most talented young fiction writers in the Jewish world. Each took the time to write lengthy thoughtful responses — each to different pieces. And two out of the three readers I would have been unlikely to ever meet except through the pages of Mishpacha.

The fiction writer addressed several recent columns on end-of-life issues. She did not disagree with the points I had made but she nevertheless added one of her own: The opposite of evaluating the “quality of life” is not necessarily striving for the maximum prolongation of life that is medically possible. (I am unqualified to enter into the complicated halachic sh’eilos involved.)

The Torah also teaches she wrote that death is a stage of life — and not the final stage — and thereby provides us with the tools to also accept death at some point. As an example (mine not hers) a couple who still had young children at home once wrote to Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky to ask whether they should rush around the world for every experimental treatment for the wife’s cancer. Reb Yaakov advised the wife to spend whatever time she had left with her children. One more round of chemotherapy is not always mandated and sometimes not advisable.

In short I had dealt with only one aspect of several complex issues.

Speaking of complicated end-of-life issues we also should be aware that not all decisions by either governments or insurance companies concerning how much will be spent on end-of-life care are simply a function of having lost any sense of the sanctity of life. In situations of scarcity either the market through individual actors or the government will be forced to make difficult choices.

Health-care resources are not unlimited. Modern medicine has made it possible to stave off death — e.g. through the use of ventilators — in ways that would have been impossible just a few years ago. But if doing so to the maximum extent possible comes at the expense of every other form of government spending — e.g. police and fire education defense — or pushes insurance premiums out of the range of most families controls on expenditures will be imposed.

As a community we can fight for exemptions from laws or insurance policies defining death in ways at variance with halachah to ensure that neither families nor health care providers are forced to act in contravention of Torah dictates. And we have to be vigilant against the very slippery slope of the progressive ideology of “quality of life” that leads to euthanasia eugenics and making older people feel that they have a duty to die.

But if we think there are easy solutions to all the issues or only good guys and bad guys we are fooling ourselves.

Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 671. Yonoson Rosenblum may be contacted directly at rosenblum@mishpacha.com