In April 2019, Hindy Pearson and Talli Ben Atar co-founded Animal Rescue Israel (formerly Street Cats of Jerusalem) to reduce the estimated 100,000-200,000 in stray cats in Jerusalem through a Trap-Neuter-Release program. Hindy’s first encounter with stray cats happened at age 25. Since that time, she’s cared for cats as a pet sitter, helped socialize them, answered behavior questions from owners, and cared for a community cat colony in her own neighborhood. Talli lives in Jerusalem and has been helping cats for about 30 years. She finds foster homes for kittens rescued from the streets, as well as for cats and kittens recovering from illness or injury. The two ladies formed Animal Rescue Israel after meeting online, and then they had the opportunity to meet in-person when Hindy visited Jerusalem this past June.
ALLISON: Share highlights of your visit this year to Jerusalem.
HINDY: It was such a wonderful trip, my first visit back in 27 years! There were so many highlights:
- Visiting the various cities and sites
- Meeting great people
- The food of course
- Seeing how happy my husband was
- Reconnecting with family I haven’t seen in many years
ALLISON: Did you get to meet Tali Ben Atar?
HINDY: Yes, I got to spend a few hours with Tali which was great. We met at a local café that I used to go to all the time when I lived there. Imagine, it was still the same after all these years!
She’s an incredible woman who has done so much to help animals. She has a full time job, a family, she takes classes and still has time to save lives.
ALLISON: Share the highlights of your meeting.
HINDY: We talked about the feral cat situation, the challenges rescuers face, what she’s focusing her attention on at the moment, what help she believes is needed and what role I could play.
ALLISON: What progress has been made this year with helping stray cats?
HINDY: In the four months that I’ve been back, I’ve made some great progress. It hasn’t happened as quickly as I would have liked, but that’s because I was dealing with other people, waiting for answers….
I spent a lot of time speaking to rescuers and shelters, trying to get some consensus on what the issues are. I came across some differences of opinion, so I didn’t feel clear on what role I could play.
After all that, I came to the conclusion that running this campaign on my own was the only way it was going to happen. At least, that’s true for the moment. So far I have:
- Created a Facebook page to reflect the new name, Animal Rescue Israel
- Started a GoFundMe campaign which has already raised a few hundred dollars
- Created a fundraising letter
- Compiled a massive list of people to send my fundraising letter
- Sent out hundreds of letters
- Received feedback from a few recipients, expressing gratitude for taking on this much needed project
As a result of the above, a few hundred dollars has already been raised.
ALLISON: What are the main ongoing challenges?
HINDY: The main challenge for me is raising money for a cause when no one knows who I am. I don’t have a network of people to approach. While fundraising sites making it super easy to create campaigns, everywhere I look on social media someone is raising money for something. I’m just one of many with the danger of getting lost in the crowd, and so I’m trying to find others to help.
ALLISON: What keeps you going?
HINDY: My greatest passion is animal welfare, which means raising awareness about cruelty and doing my part to stop it.
I’m furious at the apathy displayed by most. Many make jokes about the cats; most walk by without seeing the problem.
When I lived in Jerusalem years ago, I found a tiny sick kitten in a pile of garbage. She was around three-weeks-old and fit in the palm of my hand. Wherever I lived in the world she came with me, and we shared our lives until she crossed the Rainbow Bridge at the age of 17.
I was able to save her, but I couldn’t save those I saw on our recent trip. The most I was able to do was leave them food and water, and commit to this project.
ALLISON: Share a success story
HINDY: I think this whole post is a success story!!
ALLISON: Anything else you’d like to add?
HINDY: Animals rely on us to be their voice, to speak up when no one else is. They are sentient beings who feel pain and loss, and deserve our compassion not our apathy. Speaking up can change everything for those without a voice.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To read my first interview with Hindy about Animal Rescue Israel (aka Stray Cats of Jerusalem), click here.