Gaza resident Abdullah Sharaf doesn’t know much Hebrew. But he knew that Israelis would be better equipped than local veterinarians to save his African Grey parrot, Koki, who had a life-endangering hole in his throat after accidentally swallowing bleach.
Veterinarians in Gaza advised him to euthanize Koki. Refusing to give up on his prized pet, Sharaf found Israeli wildlife sanctuary L’Maan Chayot Bar (For the Wildlife) on Facebook and sent a message in Arabic. The sanctuary’s owner, Avihu Sherwood, used Facebook’s Google Translate feature to read the message in Hebrew.
Sherwood immediately called Dr. Shlomit Levy, the only veterinarian in Israel solely dedicated to the care of parrots and other birds.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll come,’” Levy tells ISRAEL21c.
Due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Gaza, however, it’s nearly impossible for Israelis to enter the strip, and vice versa.
Levy, as well as Sherwood and veterinarian Dr. Ofer Zadok – who lent his mobile clinic to the cause — had to apply for permits just to get to the Erez border crossing on the Israeli side of the boundary. They had the necessary papers within 24 hours.
But how was Sharaf to get Koki to the Erez crossing? Permits for Gazans to enter Israel are mainly limited to dire (human) medical need.
An official from the Israeli government’s COGAT (Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories) agency came to the rescue, going over the border to take the year-old exotic parrot from its anxious owner and bring it to Levy in the mobile veterinary clinic.
All communication between Sharaf and Sherwood was via Facebook Messenger in two languages.
And so on Tuesday, March 19, only a day after Sherwood had set the wheels in motion, the bird was on Levy’s operating table.
“It had a hole in its crop — part of the bird’s intestinal apparatus where they store food. I’ve treated such holes before but this was probably the worst I’ve ever seen,” Levy tells ISRAEL21c.
“The bird was so debilitated that I couldn’t anesthetize him because it would have killed him. Instead I used local anesthetic to control the pain.”
Sherwood and Zadok assisted Levy in the lifesaving surgery, which took under an hour. She would have liked to take Koki to her Ra’anana clinic to watch his progress and administer antibiotics, but that was not possible.
“So we sent him back to his owner with instructions and antibiotics. The bird reportedly is doing better,” says Levy, who has been specializing in birds for many years. “A long time ago, I decided no more cats, dogs or reptiles. My heart is with birds.”
But the message Levy wants to emphasize from the Koki incident is all about human beings.
“I want people in Gaza to see that we in Israel really do care for them, and I want people in Israel to see that there are real people on the other side of the border — people who care for their pets just like Israelis do.”
[Photo: Israel21c ]