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Woman Wades into Jordan River to Save Dove Discarded by Clergy

Woman Wades into Jordan River to Save Dove Discarded by Clergy


Every day, we at The Great Animal Rescue Chase bring you tales of heroism from animal lovers across the globe.Today’s is one of the most provocative we’ve evershared. You sometimes have little more than a heartbeat to decide ifyou willturn sorrowfully away from an animal in distress or if you’llsummon the courage to run forward and help. For all you runners out there, thisone’s foryou….

Written byJudith Sudilovskyof Jerusalem, Israel

Working as a journalist in Jerusalem for more than two decades, I have covered many a religious ceremony, including the Greek Orthodox Epiphany Ceremony at the Qasr el Yahud baptismal site on the Jordan River. It is always packed with Orthodox pilgrims from all over the world, most of them Greek Orthodox. The ceremony also involves the release of three white doves.

Last year, the site had been renovated by the Israelis and included a wooden platform near the water’s edge. As always, the site was packed with pilgrims with barely any walking room. Through this throng the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and Archimandrites (Orthodox ranking just below bishops) made their way with three white doves perched on the tops of three tall golden staffs.

Unfortunately, as they approached the water’s edge one of the doves was knocked off the staff. He was scooped up quickly and put back on the staff and the procession continued to the water’s edge. At the end of the ceremony, the doves were released into the sky, but the dove who had fallen off the staffapparently had broken a wing and could not fly. Hefell right into the river. Luckily, he fell close to some water plants and was able to pull himself to the plants wherehe clung on to the reeds. It was a a cold rainy day. I was sure one of the priests would arrange for the dove to be rescued. After all, the dove had been a symbolic part of their religious ceremony.

But as the patriarch and others began leaving the site, I saw that nobody was giving the dove a second thought. I approached one of the clergymen and asked him what would happen to the dove who was stuck in the water and could not fly. He looked out into the water and said “I don’t know. Maybe he will die.” I asked him if he could send someone into the river to get the dove and he said no. I then approached one of the young Israeli policemen who was dressed in head-to-toe rain gear if he would go into the water to get the dove, but he too said no.

So I, a middle-aged woman in jeans, askedone of thephotographers who was there to hold ontomy purse and, clinging to a handrailing leading down into the river, I felt my way with my feet slowly down the stairs leadng under the water until I was almost hip-deep into the water.

I was afraid that the dove would be startled by my appearance and try to escape before I was able to catch him so I quickly scooped him up from the reeds and clutched him to my chest as I made my way back up the stairs.

I was surprised to see that the thousands of pilgrims there — and also who had been watching from across the Jordan on the Jordanian side of the river a few hundred yards away –began to applaud me and the dove. As I made my way through the crowd, they began to bless me and reached out to pet the dove.

At the office of the Israel National Parks Authority near the parking lot of the site, I found a ranger who also was an animal rescuer and he took the dove, telling me he would take the bird to the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo where they have a rehabilitation center for injured birds. When possible, they later release the birds back into the wild. Though I do not know the fate of “my” white dove, I like to think that it healed well and is now in a place where he is safe and comfortable — whether it is in the zoo’s sanctuary or other bird sanctuary or in the wild.

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Photo credit: Gabriel Blaj |

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10:19PM PST on Nov 4, 2014

So many religions that claim to know and own God have no regard for the multitude of amazing creatures on this planet. They are so narrow minded and self absorbed that they don't have a thought for all of God's other creatures. In fact, they kill and torture animals as central themes to their religious ceremonies. Their religion is blind just as they are blind.

5:09AM PDT on Oct 30, 2014

Thanks for this beautiful story

8:45PM PDT on Oct 29, 2014

Thank you

7:11AM PDT on Oct 29, 2014

Good impression from the Clergy. Will surely send a good message to others.

10:57AM PDT on Apr 9, 2014

Discarded by CLERGY after their ceremony? What the hell kind of teaching allows judgement on who will live and who will die? ALL life is precious, no matter the species, and should be so dealt with.

9:13PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013


4:46PM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Many blessings to all that will have the courage and compassion to rescue any living creature!

5:14AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

No life should be taken lightly; thanks for saving the bird

4:42AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Wonderful story! Thanks for sharing!

6:33PM PDT on Jul 29, 2013

Wonderful, Judith! I find rescuing animals to be incredibly fulfilling, seems you do too. Kudos for stepping up when those who seemed better suited did not.

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