Sunday, March 13, 2005

Indulge me for a moment while I talk about... rats

One of the unexpected consequences of spending the last few years in Jerusalem has been a terrible fear of... rats.
Yes, rats. It's the Holy City's dirty little secret: it's rat infested. And whilst they say you're never more than 15m. away from a rat in London, and that North America has more rats than human beings, Jerusalem is the only city I've ever lived in where I've been really aware of rats everywhere. It started when I opened the door to my bedroom one evening to find an enormous rat scurrying across my desk (it had climbed in through an open window); it took me another 8 months to be able to open the door again without staring at that exact spot to make sure the rat had really gone. It continued several months later with a rat making its way into my roommate's closed food cupboard and munching its way through some of her best chocolate and nuts. Not to mention several other too-close encounters across the city, in some of its very finest neighborhoods, which I won't go into here; Suffice to say, I've been left with a real phobia of rodents.
So I was happy to discover that apparently, they weren't just picking on me:
Zohar, from Bayit Vegan, recalls how a huge gray rat ran into her home one evening, when her husband left the front door open as he went to throw out the trash.
"I was able to trap the rat, but we couldn't catch it. All night I heard it having a party in the bedroom and I got a good look at it through the glass door was when it jumped on my husband's robe," she says.
David Arenson had a rat encounter on Palmach Street.
"I was walking up the stairs in my apartment block when suddenly two big rats came down the stairs," he recalls. "One ran over my friend's shoes. Then they ended up running down the bannister, and disappearing out of sight"...
Jerusalem provides a very hospitable and welcoming environment, if you're a rat. After all, there are frequent garbage strikes and many open municipal dumps, which, unlike garbage containers, do not have lids. And even those garbage bins that do have covers are often left open, stuffed to overflowing with household waste.... According to many Jerusalemites the number of rats is increasing. Most people attribute it to the constant digging and redigging for the light rail, which has exposed drainage and sewage pipes.
Yuck, yuck, yuck. At least London's rats are out of sight, out of mind.
Incidentally, according to the article, "some believe that the siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE was caused by an infestation of rats that led to a sudden deadly plague in the city." Anyone ever heard of this?

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