Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Spot the Dog Passes Away

While we are on the subject of sad news, I should report that Spot the Dog has passed away. He was known by many other names, too numerous to mention here, but his favorite was perhaps "The Dog Formerly Known as Spot". He was 14 1/2 years old.

He came down with Lymphoma last Rosh Hashannah, and his vet, Dr. Marganite, was able to keep him alive for almost a year. He got chemotherapy at the animal hospital in Beer-Sheva, which was effective as long as he was on it, but then relapsed a couple of months after it stopped. He passed away, or was "put to sleep" as the saying goes, on the 17th of Tamuz, the middle of July, a fast day on the Jewish calendar, after he had stopped eating and drinking. He finally lost the energy to stand.

Spot the Dog's final photo. Too weak to stand, he still puts on a good face at the vet's.

We took him to Dr. Marganite who examined him and agreed with us that his time had come. She told us to say good bye, and she said that this made everyone sad but she would not cry to stay professional, but then we all started to cry. She took Spot away and then a short time later I heard the squeeky wheels of the gurney and knew his end had come. They put him in a plastic sack and wrapped him in the sheet we had brought, after which he was put in a cardboard box which was taped shut. We wheeled him out to the car and placed him in the back seat and drove home to Mitzpe Ramon.

We decided to bury him in the JNF forest near the Machtesh, just below the Wise Observatory where I do my star tours every night. Yishbot, one of the Black Hebrews, dug his grave under a tree at the least used edge of the forest. Our friend Chaim helped us bring him up and bury him. We placed his old sleeping sheepskin in the grave and then placed him in his box on top. Pam almost lost her purse in the grave since we hadn't realized she had put it on the sheepskin in the car. Fortunately, we found it before the dirt started flying. Otherwise, Spot would have had quite a Pharonic burial.

Spot is placed on his sheepskin in his little grave above Mitzpe Ramon

Chaim helps us bury Spot in the JNF forest.

After we finished covering his grave with dirt I put large rocks on it, as Dr. Marganite suggested, to keep the wild animals from digging him up.

Spot's grave site in the JNF forest above Mitzpe Ramon

Every time we visit I add a large rock to the pile to protect him. It is also a Jewish custom to leave a rock of remembrance on a grave at every visit. The pile has gotten very big.

Spot's rock pile on his grave site.

We miss Spot every day, but as Yair, our grandson said, "I miss Spot, but it makes me happy when I remember him." What better could be said about a dog? We miss you and remember you, buddy.

Tragedy on the Machtesh

It has been a while since we have written about life in Mitzpe Ramon. We were in the US for about a month, and then alot of our time has gone into setting up our astronomy night time tours and posting on So, it is with sadness that we return to write about tragedy on the Machtesh and in the Negev area. This is especially so during the Ten Days of Repentance between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur.

On Monday, a man of unknown identity in his late 30s or early 40s jumped to his death from the Bird's Nest Overlook at the end of our street. This is a dramatic parapet that juts out from the edge of the Machtesh with views for miles out and around the crater. The drop looks to be about 500 feet to the bottom. Every year such suicide tragedies and other deaths occur here. Most recently a teen-age girl and her friend from Tel Aviv had been drinking and were dancing at the edge of the Machtesh. She fell to her death. Or so the story goes, which would make a great line for a mystery. Ush, such goyishe kups!

(These photos by Albert Bitton and Lital Solomon of Mitzpe Ramon are used with permission.)

Seen here is Yoash Limon, of the Green Backpackers, being lowered to the jumper in Mitzpe Ramon. Above is the Bird's Nest Parapet, overlooking Machtesh Ramon, from which he jumped to his death.

Yoash secures the body to a gurney.

Lifting the gurney.

Many emergency personnel and onlookers wait above.

Then yesterday, two other deaths were reported in the Judean Desert near the Dead Sea. An 18 year old American boy touring the area fell to his death from a height. Later that day in the same area, a 50 year old Russian man had been leaning against a boulder which shifted when he released his hold and rolled over him, crushing him to death.

Such things are not supposed to happen and remind us of the most powerful part of the Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur service after the Nesaneh Tokef, "Who shall live and who shall die...who by fire...who by drowning...who by stoning... We don't stone people anymore, well not outside of Islamic countries anyway, but in biblical times stoning was carried out by pushing the condemned off a high place. And the scape goat, the Goat for Azazel that was to die for the sins of the community on Yom Kippur, was pushed to its death from a great height after the crimson string between its horns was cut.

We spent Rosh Hashannah at the new Aish Kodesh (Holy Fire) shul in Ramat Bet Shemesh. It is a large three story stone building made of marble and Jerusalem stone. I grew up in a shul with a chazan and men's choir of unparalleled power. So, it's unusual for me to hear anything cantorial that moves me during the High Holiday davening. But in the shul, during the "Mi Yichyeh of The Nesaneh Tokef" (Who shall live and who die...) the chazan sang a line over the chorus of the kahal (community) that sounded like the drowning voice of the tempest-tossed over the storm of Fate, a chilling effect I had never heard before and will never forget.

May the Tempest Tossed find rest, and we should hear only good news from now on. Baruch Dayan Emet.

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