Kojak the camel Jerusalem 311.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The iconic photo of a tourist sitting on a camel’s back with the Dome of the
Rock in the background is under threat, after Jerusalem Municipality officials
detained Kojak the Camel for not having the correct paperwork.
11-year-old Kojak is owned by Ali Abu Hawa, whose family has owned the camels
that tourists use for pictures on the Mount of Olives for the past 26
The municipality charges that Abu Hawa was operating without a
license and that his camel was not properly vaccinated against rabies and other
diseases, a requirement for any animals working with tourists or the public. Abu
Hawa said he had originally been given a license to keep a camel on the Mount of
Olives during Teddy Kollek’s tenure as Jerusalem mayor. He renewed the license
annually, as was required, but starting in 2009 the municipality refused to
renew it. The veterinarian then refused to give the camel the vaccinations
because the license was invalid.
The municipality declined to explain why
Abu Hawa had been unable to renew the license.
On Thursday, the
municipality said Abu Hawa was “illegally operating a tourism
“Despite repeated warnings to the owner of the camel to remove
him from the city, the owners refused, and veterinary services had to confiscate
the camel,” said a municipality spokesman.
“I haven’t worked in two
weeks, and I have seven kids at home,” Abu Hawa told The Jerusalem Post on
Thursday. “It’s like a mafia, like thieves. I’m sitting at home for two weeks
and haven’t even made one shekel.”
Abu Hawa lives on the Mount of Olives,
less than a kilometer from the Revi’im Promenade near the Seven Arches Hotel,
where he usually works.
“We’ve been there for almost 30 years. The Border
Police and the police all know us; I know their kids because they bring them to
come take pictures. I even went to one of their houses for Seder for Pessah,”
said Abu Hawa.
He normally charges tourists between NIS 10 and NIS 15 to
sit on the camel and pose for a picture.
In an average day, he makes
about NIS 150, NIS 50 of which goes toward the camel’s food.
seized two weeks ago and is currently being detained in Lifta, Abu Hawa
believes. He claims the municipality won’t release the camel until he has the
animal insured, in case of accidents with tourists.
“They said, ‘No
insurance, no camel,’” said Abu Hawa.
After searching the country for a
week, he has finally located an insurance company in Tel Aviv that has agreed to
Tal Feldman from the Madanes Insurance Agency confirmed
that this was the first camel the company was insuring since the company was
founded in 1972.
The company, which offers liability, travel, auto, home,
life and business insurance, among other things, estimated the cost of insuring
a camel for one year at NIS 10,000.
But Abu Hawa might run into
additional problems, as the company is unsure of whether it can process the
insurance claim if Abu Hawa doesn’t have a valid license. Additionally
veterinary services are requiring Abu Hawa pay a fee of NIS 100 per day for the
camel’s upkeep, he said.
Abu Hawa said tour guides were disappointed when
they showed up with busloads of tourists and Kojak was not in his usual
“Tourists from around the world are asking, ‘Where’s the camel?’
And we say, ‘The camel’s in jail,’” said Abu Hawa. “Then they say, ‘We want to
save the camel!’”