Thursday, May 19th | 18 Iyyar 5782

April 19, 2021 1:06 pm

As They Do Every Year, Israelis Swim With Sharks Off the Coast of Hadera

avatar by Benjamin Kerstein

Israelis swim with sharks off the coast of the town of Hadera. Photo: screenshot.

Despite warnings from the authorities, Israelis swam with the sharks on Monday off the coast of the town of Hadera in what has become an annual ritual.

Israeli news site Walla reported that the Israel Nature and Parks Authority warned bathers away from beaches near the Orot Rabin power plant. The plant discharges excess hot water into the sea, which in turn attracts sharks, sometimes in large numbers, during the months between November and April.

If sharks are encountered, the Authority said, they can be unpredictable in their behavior, and thus should be avoided — and certainly not fed. The Authority also noted that the sharks are considered an endangered species and protected by Israeli law.

All of this was to no avail, and smartphone videos of people swimming and standing in the shallow waters as sharks quite larger than they circled around them quickly emerged.

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The sharks did not appear to be aggressive and the bathers were more excited and amused by their presence than frightened.

The species in question is the Dusky Shark, and they annually congregate near Hadera in numbers of between 20 to 30 individuals at a time. They are around 13 feet long on average, and weigh about 770 pounds.

The Dusky Shark is considered potentially dangerous, and why the Hadera sharks appear so comfortable around humans is not currently known.

Adi Barash, chairwoman of the organization Sharks in Israel, downplayed the danger involved, saying, “Playing with cockroaches is a lot worse.”

In the area of Hadera near the power station, she said, “People have been swimming with the sharks for several years.” Indeed, she noted, Hadera has become a tourist destination because of this.

“This is a unique global phenomenon that is not known elsewhere,” she said of the sharks’ habit of congregating near Hadera each year. “We do not yet know how to explain exactly why.”

Barash called the ease with which the sharks interact with humans “wonderful” and “amazing.”

“Ecologically, it’s like lions,” she said. “Would you approach a lion like that?”

She added that such interactions ought to serve as an opportunity to educate people about the reality of sharks and “start protecting them.”

Barash did advise caution, however, saying, “These are wild animals and should be given breathing space. You see that it is too crowded there” in the videos. “It is still a large wild animal that should be respected.”

“Probably their patience threshold is very high,” she said of the sharks’ tolerance of humans, “and they studied us and understand that the danger from us is not high.”

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