The threat to Shaar Hagai Kennels and Myrna Shiboleth, Israeli breeder of Canaan dogs

Submitted by Jerry Halberstadt on Sun, 10/23/2011 - 02:42

Myrna Shiboleth, an American determined to train and breed animals, settled in Israel, became a citizen of Israel, and took up the cause of preserving the Canaan dog. Her home, her family, and her work are threatened. With a group of friends, she took over and rehabilitated some abandoned buildings from a British colonial fort. She has lived and worked on this farm for over four decades, and now faces being forced by an Israeli government agency to leave. This could make her family homeless and scatter her breeding animals and end her work of saving the Canaans from extinction. It would be a tragedy for her as well as a disaster for the continuation of a rare and valuable breed.

Canaan dogs are closely related to the wolf, from which all dogs are descended, and they have lived in the wild or in association with Bedouins, with little or no modification through selective breeding. Myrna has brought in dogs from the wild and from Bedouin stock and continues to breed them, show them internationally, and she is internationally recognized as an expert judge. Through her efforts, and other dedicated breeders throughout the world, the Canaan is now accepted in national associations such as the American Kennel Club. Once ignored or shunned, the Canaan dog is now recognized for intelligence, adaptability, companionship, loyalty and more. They are excellent herding dogs, guard dogs, and can be trained in tracking, search-and-rescue, agility, obedience, and support/therapy.

I vividly recall on living in Israel, learning about the "Israeli dog" and my son and I drove out to Shaar Hagai Kennels, where Myrna Shiboleth introduced us to a litter of Canaan puppies. Actually, as we walked over to the puppies, they all crowded up to the fence, but Keshet climbed over them to get closer and immediately bonded with my son. I find it hard to express the difference that Keshet made in all our lives. My Canaan girl, Keren, is my constant companion and support. It would not have happened but for Myrna (and of course, many others!)

Myrna Shiboleth at Shaar Hagai Kennels in Israel is uniquely placed to continue breeding from the Bedouin or wild stock, and to continue her role as advocate and standard bearer for the breed worldwide---as she has done for most of her adult life. We must find support for her and her program. There are so few
Canaans left, and very few "pariah" species. The Canaan is the closest animal to a wolf that can live with most humans, and those of us lucky to live with one know what a treasure they are, keeping us in touch with our own ancient path to modern human life going back thousands of years.

Shaar Hagai should be designated an historical, cultural, and natural
landmark and protected, much as we have World Heritage sites, national parks, and homes of famous people. We need to find the people in Israel who can influence the Lands Authority and talk some sense into them. And we need influence from all over the world to get Israel to recognize the treasure they are thinking of destroying.

Maybe we could develop a fund or foundation to help with legal
expenses, and if necessary, to relocate Myrna and the Kennels within Israel.

As a first step, I urge everyone to go online and join the petition on behalf of Myrna.

The Israel Lands Authority is trying to evict Myrna from Shaar Hagai
Kennels. Myrna has lived and worked there for 42 years to breed Canaans, and is still using stock from Bedouins. Eviction threatens the future of the Canaans and would be a terrible hardship for Myrna and her family. This has been Myrna's life work, we all are obligated to her efforts. I got our first Canaan from her when we lived in Israel, and she has my intense admiration for her work. Please go online, read the story in her own words, and please sign the petition:

My stories and pictures about Canaan dogs, especially Keren:

See the photo of Keren, illustrating the cover of her book, "Dogged Flight,"

More background information from Myrna
(published with permission)

Jerry, here is more detail about the situation:

When I came to Israel in 1969, I joined a few people who were interested in preserving and breeding Canaans and we looked for an isolated place where the dogs wouldn't bother anyone. The buildings here [at Shaar Hagai] were built in the time of the British Mandate, in the 1930s, and were the living quarters of the engineers and workers that ran the water pumping station---this was then the main water line to Jerusalem. After the British left, the place was abandoned and left to rot, more or less, with occasional Bedouins camping here with their sheep.

When we found the place, it was semi-ruins and completely overgrown. We rented it with a contract with Mekorot, the national water company, which claimed that it was theirs. We very gradually renovated---mostly by ourselves, since we have never had any money, and we were here without electricity (completely, no generator) and without a phone for 17 years.

After a number of years, Mekorot decided that they wanted to end the contract, and have us leave, and then we found out that the property didn't belong to them at all, but to the Israel Lands Authority.

Over the years, we requested a number of times to regularize the situation, and they completely ignored us.

Now they have filed suit to evict us. The area around us is a national park, and by law it is not allowed to live in a national park. But first of all, we have been here for 42 years, paid taxes, etc., never hid our presence, everyone knew, and nothing was done. Secondly, when we first moved here, the area was not a national park, that was declared some years later. Also, the fact is that we did not build the place---it was built by the British for people to live in.

There is no particular reason for them to evict us, the place is not needed for any great development plan or anything. It is just a political move of tying up loose ends. And we, a small and insignificant group of people, are not important to anyone.

So basically that is the situation. We have a good lawyer, but legally the situation is very complex. We hope that showing that this is important to people everywhere will help, and that we can get to important and influential people who might be able to help.



Please do sign the petition now:

I recommend highly Myrna's book: Tails of Sha'ar Hagai: A Wild Life With Wildlife by Myrna Shiboleth. Whereas I think living with a Canaan is an adventure, wait till you learn what creatures Myrna has had in her home! A great adventure story.---Jerry

Myrna's blog: fun to read!

Shaar Hagai Canaan Kennels:

In Israel, a battle to save the ancient Canaan dog Washington Post… April 6 2012: World's original Israeli Canaan dog farm faces eviction