It all started innocently enough, during our annual visit to "Kfar Kedem" as part of our tiyul to the Galil. However, by the time it was over, it turns out that MMY had been the unknowing cause of a story covered by the international media, an investigation by a neighboring country's intelligence service, and a whole lot of laughs.
Here's the way Rabbi Katz reported it to parents in a recent email entitled "The MMY Story of the Decade":
You will never believe the story I am about to tell you. But this is what happened – without any embellishment.
Last week MMY went on its annual Galil Tiyul. And as we always do, we went on Wednesday night to Mitzpe Hoshaya - to the "Kfar Kedem" site – and rode donkeys, made pita, had a bar b q and ate in a tent (all of course in ancient garb). The whole idea of this site is to recreate what Jewish life was like in the times of the Tanaim when Rav Yehuda Hanasi compiled the Mishna in Tzipori (the mountain across from Hoshaya).
This year, there was something new. As we were leaving, Menachem – the owner of the place, gets us together and says he wants to hear feedback from us the next morning about how we enjoyed our visit. But we shouldn’t use modern technology to contact him, rather we should use a homing pigeon. And sure enough he hands us a bird in a box and says "Tomorrow morning, attach a note to the leg of the bird using this letterhead I am giving you, and send it back from Tzefat. It will take about 2 hours to return home and I will call you to tell you I got your note and then I will email you a copy so you know it is for real".
So sure enough we take the boxed bird with us to the hotel in Tzefat, the girls care for it overnight, and we are ready to send it back the next morning. The girls called the bird "Uga" since it was in a box and it looked like a cake-box.
Thursday morning we drove a bit north of Tzefat and at 9:35am we had a whole ceremony to say farewell to our feathered friend. The note was attached and read something like "We love you Uga. Thank you for a wonderful evening. Rabbi Katz you are soo cool (ed. This was an inside joke from earlier that day) Esther Goldstein is our backup pitcher (ed. Also an inside mmy joke). We look forward to your email reply when you get this" It had BS"D on the top and the school email address.
Moshe Ben Baruch, our tour guide who knows everything, quoted the various pesukim in Tanach where the homing pigeon , the "Yona" is used as an allegory for Am Yisrael who knows ultimately how to come back to Eretz yisrael (for example – see the haftara for Parshat Ki Tavo). And after a quick chorus of the song "Uf Gozal" we sent Uga on his way (Click here to watch a video of this momentous occasion [Windows Media 4:42 mins - video credits, Raimy Tuchinsky and Naomi Sharon]).
But he did not return home. We called and called but the answer was "he didn’t come back yet". The girls were very bothered and kept bugging me to call more. But he just wasn’t going to come back and at some point we gave up hope and assumed that he was dead.
But then we got the newspaper this morning! Maariv dedicated most of its back page to a story it picked up from the…. Lebanese Press! (and I just heard a rumor that it was on CNN TV in the usa!) The article said that the bird landed on the roof of Achmed Kamal Zeitun in the town of "Kfar Tavnit" in Lebanon. They assumed that the message was from an Israeli Arab girl from the town of "Kefar Kassam" (notice it looks like Kfar Kedem) and was being sent to her boyfriend in Lebanon to "thank him for a wonderful evening". But others claimed it was a coded message and thus the bird is being checked at the Lebanese secret service and the Agriculture Ministry. Everyone was stumped as to why anyone would use a pigeon in today's modern world – especially considering that the message asked for a reply via email!! And of course it was written in English, and had BS"D on the top. Israeli "experts" were stumped because "everyone knows women don’t use pigeons". (I am not embellishing!) . And also "it cant be that the bird just got lost. These birds don’t make mistakes". Experts were also stumped as they were not aware that letterhead is used for messages on birds.
This incident attracted the attention of media outlets around the world, and appears on a number of Lebanese websites. The story, in its correct version, was also covered by The Jerusalem Post.