The Biblical Hyraxes of the Negev, and Their Songs

In the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the shafan is listed as being unkosher since it is one of few animals that chews its cud but does not have split hooves. Although in modern Hebrew shafan usually means “rabbit,” it is far more likely that these verses refer to the rock hyrax. (The arnevet mentioned in these passages is likely a rabbit.) These creatures, according to Proverbs 30:25, “are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks.” Judy Siegel-Itzkovich describes Israeli scientists’ most recent discoveries about this peculiar species:

Hyraxes are medium-sized, plant-eating mammals with soft, gray-brown, or yellowish fur that look like a robust, oversized guinea pig or a rabbit with rounded ears and no tail. Native to Africa and the Middle East, the species are common on hills in Israel and have some unpleasant characteristics.

They bite, can spread rabies and, when bitten by sandflies, can transmit a parasite, causing a disease characterized by irregular bouts of fever, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver and anemia that could be fatal if left untreated.

Their redeeming feature is that the males sing beautiful courting songs to female hyraxes. A new study on animal behavior that involved researchers from Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan has linked reproductive success in male rock hyraxes to their ability to maintain rhythm during songs.

Unlike many other animals known to communicate through song, hyraxes usually sing alone, according to Vlad Demartsev, who collected the data for this study while at Tel Aviv University. . . . “Their songs have regional dialects, so individuals living in proximity sing more similarly to each other,” he said. “They tend to sing in crescendo [getting louder as the song progresses] and reach peak complexity towards the end of their songs, maybe to keep the audience engaged and listening to the signals.”

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Animals, Hebrew Bible, Negev


Hamas Wants a Renewed Ceasefire, but Doesn’t Understand Israel’s Changed Attitude

Yohanan Tzoreff, writing yesterday, believes that Hamas still wishes to return to the truce that it ended Friday morning with renewed rocket attacks on Israel, but hopes it can do so on better terms—raising the price, so to speak, of each hostage released. Examining recent statements from the terrorist group’s leaders, he tries to make sense of what it is thinking:

These [Hamas] senior officials do not reflect any awareness of the changed attitude in Israel toward Hamas following the October 7 massacre carried out by the organization in the western Negev communities. They continue to estimate that as before, Israel will be willing to pay high prices for its people and that time is working in their favor. In their opinion, Israel’s interest in the release of its people, the pressure of the hostages’ families, and the public’s broad support for these families will ultimately be decisive in favor of a deal that will meet the new conditions set by Hamas.

In other words, the culture of summud (steadfastness), still guides Hamas. Its [rhetoric] does not show at all that it has internalized or recognized the change in the attitude of the Israeli public toward it—which makes it clear that Israel still has a lot of work to do.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security