figs and fishies and such

these last two weeks were probably the most enjoyable days i’ve spent draped in sweaty green rags.  last year, at the exact same location, most of my waking hours involved guarding, cleaning, and other various chores of the lowest rung on the hierarchy of simple soldiers in an idf combat unit which is organized purely by time spent in service.  but this year, now i’m a seasoned soldier, and my missions are outside the outpost patrolling the area in an (air conditioned, thank god) jeep.  these patrols bare little resemblance to those i did in the west bank: standing hours in full gear, check points, higher pressure.  those months were full of  important work that i truly appreciate as a influential, but not the particularly fun, experience in my life.

these days, on the other hand, are a bit more relaxed…

the area is for some a getaway, with lakes and pools with visitors that need, um, protecting and, hey, if they want to offer us some homemade goodies they brought on the trip or some coffee, why not?  passing through a watermelon patch, i asked the workers if one could be spared and was given five.  in fact, my main mission besides securing the border is gathering wild figs which grow abundantly throughout the area – i even made fig jam on base.  the wildlife in the north is like none i’ve witnessed in israel, from leaping elk to soaring spotted hawks to a friendly fox that eats my gross army food leftovers to a family of some sort of hedgehog looking critter sprawled out lazily on boulders.  oh, and speaking of animals..well..i’ve been doing a bit of thinking on that subject.

actually i’ve been doing a bit of thinking on that subject for quite a few years.  and if you’re someone who rolls your eyes when animal rights are mentioned, then go ahead and skip to the bottom because i’m sure at the end i’ll be rambling about figs again (they’re just oh-so lusciously delectable.)  anyway, four or so years ago, at the end of high school, working at trader joe’s and learning about (and being obsessed with) their products caused me to become more aware of the issue of animal cruelty.  i have always been of the opinion that there is nothing innately immoral about killing an animal for food, which probably stems from my belief in the bible in which god was the first to kill an animal, but on the other hand, god gave us standards for how to care for animals up until that point.  he cared that when we used an ox to plow our fields that we did not muzzle them, allowing them to freely eat while working,  not just treated them like a lifeless machine, even if a muzzled ox would be more efficient as it wouldn’t stop to graze.  currently, the meat industry does everything within its power to maximize profit, regardless of the inhumane treatment towards animals that this requires.  there are plenty of appetite spoiling websites out there on the subject, including many unrealistic and fanatical ones, so i’ll leave you to your own interest adventure on the topic instead of delving into specifics.

so, back to high school me working at wonderland aka trader joe’s.  i decided to eat only free range meat, which is supposed to (there are even issues within…) ensure humane, natural, and usually hormone and anti-biotic free life for the eventually to be savored in my mouth animals.  this fell apart when i moved to israel, where i thought to myself: soon i’ll be in the army, no free range there anyway, and i’m gonna need more protein than ever.  that was three years ago, and recently i’ve been rethinking the subject.  two weeks ago i spoke with a vegetarian, asking him why he chose that lifestyle.  he was not a fanatical animal rights activist who believes that killing an animal is murder, in fact he agreed with me that it wasn’t immoral as a concept, and he did not choose to eliminate meat from his diet for health reasons.  he stated in quite plain terms that he would be opposed to killing an animal for fun, so the only reason he would do so is because of its taste, an idea which to him lacks justification in an age and society where we can survive quite well without the bloodshed.  this was an obvious yet new manner to approach the subject to me, and i began to ponder once again how and if i would incorporate, well, dead animals in my life.  i decided that, in the mean time, i’d return to an even more extreme version of my pre-israel ideals, limiting my animal protein to fish.   reasons?  there’s a good 5 of them…one of them being now i get to have the cool new label of “pescetarian,” which, unfortunately, has no translation into hebrew (hey, hebrew, how about u GET MORE WORDS already…then hebrew says back to me: hey, ronit, how about u at least learn the ones there are before u start complaining?)

the next week, i discussed these ideas with some people on base.  i posed a question for which i hadn’t yet arrived to an answer, “if you had to personally kill every animal you were to eat, would you continue to consume meat?”  and there you go, i asked for it.

later that day, while on patrol, we arrived at a bank of a lake upon which a handful of campers had pitched tent.  out of the corner of my eye, i noticed a wobbling blob on the ground, which upon closer inspection i found was a net full of still moving fish.  a young girl hesitatingly inched toward the net and peered curiously at the creatures.  i was reminded of a time when, at about her age, i went fishing with my father and brother.  after excitedly reeling in my first catch, my heart suddenly dropped when i realized that i had doomed this suddenly helpless, flapping fish pointlessly fighting for its life on the boat floor,  and i insisted on throwing it back in.  this, of course, did not stop me from enjoying the carcasses of fish that my father had caught for dinner later that evening – then, as now, the feelings aroused by a dying animal are different from those brought up by one already dead.  as i reminisced on the bank of the lake and drew near the pile of fish, a man took one and carried it to a wood plank, its attempts to fly out of his strong grasp futile.  while holding the creature steady with one hand, the other used a knife to nonchalantly chop off its head, blood staining the tan wood with splashes of burgundy.  while the man cleaned out the insides of the body in preparation for cooking over the campfire, the mouth on the head on the ground still opened and closed, gills heaving in breathing motions.  the little girl stood by, seemingly unfazed; we get used to these things.  the commander on the patrol turned to me and said “he’s doing it wrong.  you’re supposed to give it a whack in the head so it dies first.  in any case, it’s not comfortable.”

i had to do it.  i had to understand what it feels like to take a living creature’s life, cockroaches and mosquitoes notwithstanding.  i had to see where my conscience would take me.  i was no longer a little girl and had to acknowledge that by eating the fish caught by my dad, i was essentially not throwing them back in, and despite the feelings in my heart, was choosing to end their life just as if it was my own hands which had done the deed.  if an uneasy feeling arose in my conscience, if i felt that something was just not quite good about what i did, i would probably forgo animal consumption altogether immediately.

so i thanked god that i am not a squeamish individual and requested from the man to have a try.  he obliged, and i grabbed a fish from the net and pressed it against the bloody block of death, a knife against its side.  it squirmed under my hand, leaving me no room to deny the breathing life of this creature.  i felt its life.  and then, as i forced the blade through flesh, organs, and bones, and as that animal looked in all directions, including mine, i took that life.  i stopped it all.  i cut it time on earth short when it would have otherwise lived, had i not desired its taste.  i removed life from this planet.  power was mine.  the rush of that power mixed with the uncomfortableness at the site of suffering – a new and strange sensation.  fresh blood gushed from the decapitated creature, no longer needed, and the carcass was swept up to be gutted routinely.

there were no aching emotions within me.  i had no reason to believe that what i did was “wrong,” no bearing on my conscience that would keep me from doing it again.  but what is “not wrong” is not always best.  it is written that one day the lion will lay with the lamb, and i assume that if even lions will become vegetarians, so will we.  even though there is nothing immoral about killing animals for their flavor, perhaps there is something to denying that right.  maybe, because it is needless in our society, avoiding this bloodshed is simply a preferable lifestyle, but not a more moral one.  i cannot say that god gave us animals for us to eat, because in eden it was not so, rather it was the curses as a consequence of man’s fall that brought about the act of animals killing each other.  once again, this is not to suggest that it is a bad thing in itself, but an aspect of a purified world is vegetarianism, so why not try to emulate that?   on the other hand, we can’t just try to escape to a land untainted by sin while we are still living in the opposite.   then again, but this is not trying to escape any more than a man working in air conditioning is escaping the curse of sweat from labor.   ah, i don’t know if i’ll ever really come to a conclusion on this; fortunately it isn’t the biggest issue in the world.

anyway, i’m still searching in this subject.  i don’t know if my statements are all preceded with the word “perhaps” because i really am not convinced, or if i simply selfishly adore the taste of fish.  am i being honest with myself?  for now, this will do.  and who knows what i’ll do if and when i go to culinary school…not eat what i cook?  maybe even the pescetarianism is a phase…who knows?  i’m sure i’ll resolve it all eventually, and if not, oh well.

i’m so tired…posted pics of the last two weeks on facebook…back to base tomorrow…tah tah


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5 Responses to “figs and fishies and such”

  1. Aviel Josiah Brown Par Le Vou Says:

    Since it isn’t wrong to desire tasting an animal, and since it’s true that everything is judged by the motives of out hearts, and since it’s true that animals don’t have souls (unless I missed that part of the Bible…which I might have), and since we were given the job..err..the pleasure of enjoying the world to the glory of God, I eat meat. But most of all, I eat meat because my heart’s not convicted against it.
    If you’re convicted against eating meat, then by all means let you not eat meat….but if, like you said, you didn’t feel like you had sinned when you killed the fish, then I think that means God hasn’t placed a conviction in your heart against eating meat. Unless simply you’re just so deeply buried in sin that you don’t even recognize conviction….which I’m pretty sure isn’t true. I believe that everyone’s heart is different and there isn’t a dead right answer to this. I have more to say, but I need to set the table….
    We’re having chicken.

  2. Yahnatan Lasko Says:

    Ronit, I like your thinking here. I haven’t become a vegetarian, but I certainly respect those who do.

    Avi, I don’t know you, but since you asked: Genesis 1:20. 🙂

  3. Yahnatan Lasko Says:

    Just to explain myself…check out the Hebrew of Gen. 1:20. I believe you’ll see the the word nefesh, which is one of the words for soul / living thing. It’s the same word used for when God breathed into the dust form and it became a living soul.

    Of course there are other words used in relation to the soul/spirit (like neshama, ruach, etc). I’m not trying to build a case for anything here, except that perhaps it’s not as unambiguous as “animals don’t have souls.” 🙂

  4. ronit kory Says:

    huh…interesting…but nefesh can also just be a living being, i believe…and even so, still interesting. i’ll check it out w/ some friends who know ancient hebrew better than i do, which includes about everyone in israel. haha, also interesting that the word currently used for chicken was apparently once used as a general term for birds…either that or back in eden chicken not only flew but had monopoly in the sky

  5. Avi Says:

    Hmmm…good point.
    But does that mean that they are eternal creatures??

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