MYRNA SHIBOLETH sits with her dogs at the kennels in Sha’ar Hagai..
(photo credit: MICHAL ALON)
After breeding Israel’s national Canaan dog for decades in the historic ruins of Sha’ar Hagai, American-Israeli Myrna Shiboleth is closing shop and heading with her canines to Italy.
Shiboleth’s last-ditch effort to escape eviction from her home of 46 years was quashed last Wednesday with the rejection of her final appeal to the Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court.
Yet amid a multiyear, government- sponsored lawsuit over land occupancy that culminated in a court-ordered eviction in January, she had long since been packing her bags – and her dogs.
“It’s been impossible to find a place in Israel where I could live reasonably with the dogs, that I could possibly afford,” Shiboleth told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. “There’s nothing here for someone like me.”
After operating for more than four decades, the kennel became the focal point of the Israel Lands Authority’s case against Sha’ar Hagai residents in 2011. The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court ruled in favor of the authority on January 17, issuing eviction notices to the occupants.
Although she filed an appeal following the ruling, Shiboleth said she had little hope for a positive outcome and immediately began looking for alternative locations for herself and her Canaan dogs, collies and Portuguese Podengos.
“We didn’t expect anything.
I couldn’t wait to see what was going to happen,” she said. “I have to have arrangements for the dogs.”
Three of her dogs are already in Europe, while 12 will travel with her on Wednesday to a new facility that she will share with another breeder near Parma, Shiboleth explained.
Her final three dogs, who are still finishing up required medical tests, will join her in December.
Shiboleth made aliya from Chicago in 1969 and settled in the ruins of Sha’ar Hagai, located about 20 km. west of Jerusalem, just off of Route 1. She came to Israel with the intent of breeding the Canaan dog, an animal that has existed since biblical times and boasts the unique status of Israel’s national dog.
Upon arriving at Sha’ar Hagai, Shiboleth said she found an abandoned and overgrown site, where she spent the first several months without water and 17 years without electricity.
In the beginning, Shiboleth said she signed a rental contract with the Mekorot national water company, the owner of the land at the time. Ten years later, when the government considered the Israel Lands Authority the owner of the space, rather than Mekorot, she said she tried unsuccessfully to cement a similar rental agreement with the new landlord.
While Shiboleth told the Post in January that the Lands Authority simply “ignored our existence for 42 years” and slammed the government body for what she described as “total injustice,” the authority stressed that the land is owned by the State of Israel.
The authority accused Sha’ar Hagai residents of being “trespassers who, in the 1970s, took over state lands and six historical buildings in Sha’ar Hagai, a national park in which residences were prohibited,” adding that such activity is a criminal offense.
“I’m very disappointed, disillusioned,” Shiboleth said on Sunday. “Israel has become something completely different than what it was when I came.”
Initially determined to find an alternative location in Israel, Shiboleth launched a crowdfunding campaign on gofundme.
com earlier this year. All in all, she has raised $32,400, an amount she said will cover the costs of her lawyer fees and traveling with all the dogs to Italy.
Just three days before she leaves her home and sets off for Europe, Shiboleth lamented the situation and stressed how much recognition her Canaan dogs have brought to Israel as a country. Even recently, during the ongoing construction work on Route 1, workers affixed a brand new exit sign to the Sha’ar Hagai Kennels, she added.
“I brought a lot of friends to Israel through the dogs,” Shiboleth said. “They saw that Israel is a normal place, not just a political myth.”
“It’s not the same place, it’s not the same people, it’s not the same government,” she added. “Everything is just very depressing, what has happened here.”