Why Israelis Went Ape Over the Story of a Missing Monkey
On Monday, every Israeli news outlet devoted space to the frantic search for Connor, a 17-year-old male capuchin monkey who escaped from the Zoological Center Tel Aviv-Ramat Gan, more commonly known as the “Safari,” and was later briefly spotted in busy Tel Aviv.
According to a spokeswoman who has known the “nice and friendly” simian since his birth, Connor fled to get away from Kimchi, a more dominant male. The two “roommates,” she said, never got along well, and in the last couple of years, the friction between them escalated, becoming too much for poor Connor to bear.
Connor’s first breakout occurred two days earlier, when he jumped the fence of his outdoor enclosure and wandered around the 250-acre site, managing to elude concerned zookeepers.
But with his escape to the big city a couple of days later, Connor’s caretakers were fearful for his safety amid the bustling, unfamiliar human and vehicular traffic. They asked the public to be on the lookout for him, and for anyone who encounters him not to panic him with sudden movements or loud noises.
This is not the first time a story about an animal on the loose in Israel has made the papers. The reason this one seems to resonate more than previous ones has to do with the length of time that the episode has gone on, and with the feelings of sympathy and amusement that small monkeys arouse in human beings.
What is most striking about the whole drama, however, is the context in which it unfolded.
On Sunday evening, the controversial Middle East “peace” summit held in Paris and attended by diplomats from more than 70 countries culminated in a declaration of support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — a typical precursor to the demand that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines.
The following morning, while Connor was roaming the streets of Tel Aviv, new details were revealed about the investigation into Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over his possible deal with Arnon Mozes, the publisher of Yedioth Ahronoth.
In addition, the National Council for the Child released a disturbing report about the alarming number of children in Israel who go to bed hungry every night. And Israeli security forces revealed that they had arrested 13 Hamas terrorists operating in the West Bank. Also, tragically, on Monday night, an IDF soldier was killed in the Golan Heights while performing routine maintenance on an armored vehicle.
These are only a few of the types of items that prompt many anxiety-ridden Israelis to announce periodical moratoria on the media, in an attempt to avoid excessive agitation about things over which they feel they have no control.
But one little monkey hiding in bushes or alleyways next to sushi bars and cafes has the power to change that, if only briefly. Connor’s story does not elicit irrational anger at the TV set. It does not push the malaise button. Rather, it has awakened hope and spurred prayer for a positive outcome.
Indeed, Israelis are not merely sad or worried about Connor; we are rooting for him.
Ruthie Blum is the managing editor of The Algemeiner.