Yulia the Endangered Seal The rockets from Gaza didn’t appear to be launched in stages, let alone the rockets heading in the opposite direction.
Yulia is about six-foot-two and landed last Friday on a sandy beach in Jaffa, the ancient city just south of Tel Aviv. He was the fourth five days out fighting between the Israeli army and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
I soon fell asleep.
Yulia was the definition of the conflicted scene. Two days earlier, air raid sirens on the same shoreline sent swimmers and sunbathers rushing to municipal shelters. Now, an endangered Mediterranean seal – one of 700 in the world – has landed on an Israeli beach for the first time since 2010.
“A miracle,” said Ruthie Yahl, a marine ecologist with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, who helped monitor Yulia this week. “It knows no frontiers, borders, or wars between nations.”
Yulia remained on the beach for several days, asleep obliviously as the cease-fire was announced. She didn’t react when crowds began to gather over the weekend to watch her fall asleep. She seemed unfazed when a local boy baptized her as Yulia, and the name began making headlines across the Israeli media.
It focused instead on molting, and its fur gradually changed color from brown to grey. Occasionally, she would roll on the sand. But it mainly grew.
As her fame spread, the Israel Nature Authority cordoned off the beach to prevent onlookers from disturbing her. Kahn, the national broadcaster, I trained the camera where she sleeps, providing a live Internet broadcast. I was inspired memes On social media, with users Flirting That she might defeat the beleaguered Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in the elections.
Over the weekend, the Israeli national conversation shifted in part from war to seals — providing one of the recurring instances of the emotional clamor that defines daily life in Israel, where the decades-long conflict with the Palestinians, along with widening internal divisions, make for a turbulent existence. internal turmoil One week, A deadly struggle Next – closely followed by the appearance of rare marine animals.
“We’re all looking for a little sanity given all the craziness going on,” said Avi Player, 47, an animator who came to see the seal Wednesday morning.
“She is an ambassador of reason,” Mr. Blair added. “It represents something else.”
For conservation experts, Yulia’s arrival is also a small victory after decades-long efforts to revive the near-extinct species.
In the late 19th century, the Mediterranean seal numbered in the thousands, experts say, but it dwindled to a few hundred during the 20th century after poachers killed many, and human activity damaged the seals’ habitat. Over the past two decades, conservation teams, especially in Greece and Turkey, have expanded coastal nature reserves, helping to increase seal numbers.
“It’s something we really need to celebrate,” said Ms. Yahl, a marine ecologist.
Like many travelers, Yulia made a stopover in Türkiye before heading to Israel.
After Mia Elisar, an Israeli seal expert, sent pictures of Yulia to colleagues in Turkey, Turks spotted a familiar and distinctive mark on her back — a scar they compare to a “tughra,” or Handwritten signature of the Ottoman caliph.
The Turkish team knew the seal had been tracking it since the mid-2000s, and they regularly spotted it in caves near Mersin in southern Turkey – most recently in March. The seal was so familiar to Turkish naval experts that for years it had been known to them as Tugra (pronounced TUR-rah)—after the Turkish spelling of the handwritten signature.
It’s a mystery why the seals swam the more than 320 miles to Jaffa, but one theory is that growing seal numbers created more competition for food, driving them further afield.
Turkish experts said Yulia appears to be bolder than most of her species – she is generally less afraid of human contact and more willing to swim long distances. In 2019, it was seen in Lebanon.
“It’s really a particularly simple seal,” said Meltem Ok, a Turkish marine biologist who said she has been following Tugra/Yulia since 2005. “She doesn’t really care about human existence.”
At one point last week, Yulia seemed so unfazed that Ms. Elisar, an Israeli seal expert, worried she might be dead. To make sure that she was still breathing, Lady Elisar crept slowly towards her in the darkness, vigilantly watching for signs of life. Suddenly, the seal’s nose twitched, and one eye opened.
“It was the only time one of us got really close to it,” said Ms. Elisar, a researcher with the Delphi Foundation, an Israeli non-profit organization that works to protect marine mammals.
For the Israelites, the news of the seal offered a brief balm to a series of successive crises – from A deep social rift On changes proposed by the government to the judiciary, to last week’s war, and insurgency in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Domestically, it has briefly distracted from ethnic tensions in Jaffa, once a predominantly Arab city where the remaining Arab population often feels priced in by growing gentrification.
Deborah Danan, a resident of Jaffa who runs one of those groups, said news of Yulia’s movements have dominated neighborhood social media groups over the past few days.
“It’s nice to be able to talk about where the seal is on the beach – rather than where the nearest bomb shelter is, or whether there is a protest,” said Ms. Danann.
But on Wednesday, visitors were met with a disappointingly empty beach. Julia disappeared into the sea, and it was not clear if she would ever return.
On Thursday, Yulia made two failed attempts to land on a beach in the far north, but each time she seemed to be put off by the presence of the dogs.
“I hope this country will come back,” Ms. Danan said. “This country needs a distraction.”
Mira Novik and Hiba Yazbeck contributed reporting from Jerusalem.