There’s always something going on in Haifa. Environmental awareness is encouraged with projects like the plastic bottle Christmas tree, yet the city’s air is considered the most polluted in the country. Haifa is famous for its lovely views of the bay, yet the peace of some neighborhoods is now disrupted by… wild pigs.
Boars, like foxes, jackals, deer, and other animals come under legal protection in Israel, although boars roaming the adjacent Carmel mountain forest have been legally culled for decades. Recently Haifa’s mayor, Einat Kalisch-Rotem, banned shooting them out of humanitarian concerns.
“They’re part of nature,” she says in defense of the ban. But the tusked creatures, who once were seen in the city only after nightfall, invade Haifa’s streets and gardens in broad daylight now.
Residents are worried that aggressive protective mother boars might turn on children who come close to boar piglets. The animals nonchalantly roam the roads in groups, block traffic, dig up public gardens and overturn waste bins in search of food. People walking dogs worry that dog/boar fights might ensue. “It feels like we’re living in the jungle,” one woman laments.
The presence of humans bothers the wild ones not at all. The French news agency AFP followed a herd around Haifa with never even a grunt from the boars in their direction.
Harried Haifa residents and animal rights activists are in fierce debate, as some favor killing the beasts and others propose tactics like laying food in the Carmel mountain to tempt them back to their forest home. Some activists say that city construction has destroyed the boars’ natural habitat and that’s the reason for the uninvited animal guests. In that case, why isn’t Haifa overrun with jackals and foxes? Not that I’m wishing that on the city.
In any case, residents say that the city has done nothing to control the boar invasion. I myself, coming across boars in the street or hearing one snuffle behind me as I sat resting on a sidewalk bench, would scream and jump six feet in the air.
Photos by Menahem Kahana / AFP