Judith Weaver was working for the U.S. Department of State and assigned to the American Consulate in Jerusalem where she became acquainted with not only the history of this fascinating city, but also of the multitude of feral cats. What started as a mild curiosity soon became a full scale mission to offer food and spay/neuter surgery for more than 1,000 of them.
Judith lived only a few blocks from her office at the Consulate and on her walk to work, she would see at least 50 cats roaming the street, most of them thin and battered.
“There was one street that had an alley going back behind some buildings, and there must have been a shed or some form of shelter at the end of the alley because there was a large colony of cats that stayed mostly in this alley,” Judith explains. ”I would always carry a plastic bag full of cat food with me and every morning and evening would stop at the entrance to the alley and put down small piles of food for the cats. They sort of got used to me, but only one cat to the point where he would let me pet him.”
Judith, who had never even had a pet cat before she arrived in Jerusalem, soon connected with Air Force Leiutenant Colonel Michael Feltman from the Seattle area who was also assigned to the Consulate. He lived at a hotel a few blocks in the other direction from the Consulate and also saw lots of feral cats on his walk to work. Having had a background in rescue, he knew just what to do.
The two began working together and trapping the adult cats to be spayed and neutered. They also fostered the kittens and socialized them to prepare them for adoption.
“If I went out of town for the week-end, Michael would come to my apt. and feed the kittens and play with them,,” Judith explains. “ I didn’t have a car, so Michael did often drove us to my vet.”
Judith and Michael eventually connected with a veterinarian sympathetic to their cause who gave them a special rate of 300 shekels (which was about US $50) for each spay/neuter.
“Michael and I paid for most of it, but employees American, Palestinian, and Israeli employees at the Consulate soon learned about what we were doing and began donating money to help us,” Judith said. “We used these donations for the spay/neuter and for cat food.”
“When my assignment was up and I left, another Consulate employee moved into the apartment,” Judith said. “Michael talked to her and explained about the cats and bought bags of cat food. She continued to put the food out for them.”
By the time she prepared to leave Jerusalem, Judith had taken part in the spay and neuter of more than 1,000 cats and placement of a multitude of kittens. When the time came to return home, she took Bootsie (the first kitten she rescued in the city) with her and that turned out to be more of an adventure than she bargained for.
“Bootsie had never traveled before, and I was carrying her in a soft-sided carrier,” Judith explains. “When I transited Frankfurt, Germany, I had to go out of the secure area as I was changing airlines. Then to get to my flight to the U.S., I had to re-enter a secure area in another terminal. The security agent told me I had to take the cat out of the carrier and put the carrier through the X-ray but could not put the cat through it. I warned the security agents that the cat could be a problem, and they said just hold on to her. Right! Not as easy as it sounds. I took her out, holding her tightly in my arms, and as I expected, she popped out of my arms like a champagne cork and took off. The agent was putting the carrier through the X-ray and I took off after Bootsie. People in line were yelling, jumping out of her way, yelling at others to get the cat, and here’s Bootsie streaking down the concourse with me following and the security agent following me with the carrier.”
“It must have looked like something out of the Keystone Kops,” Judith continued. “Finally, she ran under a bench and the people sitting on the bench jumped off like she was radioactive. I fell to the floor, reached under, and got her by the collar. She was tired by now and let me pick her up and hold her. We put her back in the carrier and walked back to the X-ray area. All along the way, people were talking about her. One lady told me she was scared silly. I replied “How do you think the cat felt?”
Today Judith is back home in Florida and sharing her home with eight rescue cats. See photo of Bootsie
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