The Municipality of Raanana is introducing amputation as punishment for spitting. What's more it's not the spitter who is going to be amputated, it's his or her neighbours. The spitters themselves are difficult to catch.
There's worse to come. Not content with mutilation, the death sentence will also be used. Again not on the perpetrators of the crime (of spitting fruit onto apartment building walls) but on their innocent neighbours (not unprecedented I suppose, viz the slaying of the firstborn in Egypt).
The alleged criminals in Raanana, if that is the correct description, are Fruit Bats. The victims are mature trees and the birds who are currently nesting in them in their hundreds if not thousands. By this afternoon four more huge trees will be a sad shadow of their former selves and the chicks will be dead.
According to Dan Baruch, the official in charge of looking after the green environment at the Raanana Municipality, the bats are causing a nuisance. He and his colleagues have decided the way to stop it is to very strongly prune the trees where they live. So in the past few days chain saws have been in operation at one road junction, previously characterised by nine huge trees as high as the seven story apartment buildings which adjoin them.
Five trees are already leafless and amputated to first floor level. It may take 10 years to regain their former glory (trees grow quickly in the Middle East if they have water). Not that it is intended that they should do so, as the intention is to keep the trees small.
Gone is the welcome shade in the summer for passers by and residents of the adjoining appartment blocks, gone is the camouflage to the ugly 70s apartment blocks behind, gone is the welcome shelter from fierce winter rain storms. There may also be a plague of insects as it's quite likely that the trees are also inhabited by another species of bat which eats flies and mosquitoes The whole ambiance of the area has seriously changed for the worse.
There will be severe adverse affects for the residents who requested the massacre: their electricity bills will soar as more air conditioning will be needed, they may not sleep as well at night as they are no longer protected by the trees from traffic noise and rowdy teenagers.
Not that I really care for the residents although I would have been really distressed had I rented an apartment in one of the blocks. It is almost certain that the value of the properties concerned will fall as many potential purchasers or tenants will be put off by the huge detriment to the character of the area.
The bats, however, will just fly away to another tree and annoy other Raanana residents. Mr Baruch will need to expand his budget and recruit an assistant as the policy means that all the large trees in Raanana will need to be pollarded
Mr Baruch, the official in charge, is a family man. He arrived at the site a few days ago in working hours pushing a grandchild in a pram. Very commendable but in such contrast to the hundreds of baby birds which his contractors are in the process of killing today as they lop off the branches.
Actually the work may be illegal. According to a spokesperson at the bird protection organisation, there is a law in Israel (both secular and religious, Halacha), which states that trees should not be cut down if birds nests will be harmed. Indeed Mr Baruch may well be the official in charge of enforcing this law - which brings a new conundrum. Mr Baruch may be required to prosecute himself. His plea, of course, will be, "I was only obeying orders".
The Mayor of Raanana did not respond to an E Mail of protest and could not be contacted by phone.