A walk on a Tel Aviv beach turns out to be more than expected as we run into a member of the endangered Green Sea Turtle family.

It was a picturesque night, walking along the main promenade in Tel Aviv. The Mediterranean Sea beneath the full September moon glistened. I was with my friend Joey here at about midnight, because neither of us could sleep, and we both needed a breather from a seemingly never-ending to-do-list.

Joey suggested a move from the cement to the sand, for a little variation, on the return leg of our stroll. While walking past many posh on-the-beach bars with beautiful colored lights and hip lounge music, I noticed something on the water line. I originally thought it was a trash bag or some other junk (even though Tel Aviv beaches are generally clean). Joey assumed that it could be a fallen satellite or who knows what.

A few steps closer, and we saw it was a sea turtle! This is an exciting moment, because Green Sea Turtles are a very rare sight in Israel, especially in such a populated area. There are only a few thousand in the Mediterranean Sea, and their main breeding grounds for the region are in Croatia, not here. They are an endangered species throughout the world, and even more sparse in the Mediterranean area.

Unfortunately, this exciting visit by our lovely friend was for a not so lovely reason. Further evaluation brought to our attention that she was missing an entire front flipper, and part of the remaining bone was still sticking out. There was fishing line wrapped all around it, and the line also went to her mouth, which led us to believe she might have a hook stuck.

Immediately, we called the 106 service number for the Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority. A dispatcher took the basic information, my phone number, and within minutes a man named Yaniv called me back. Once he found out all he needed to know about our Green Sea Turtle, he rushed to her rescue, commanding us to stay and hang out with her until he arrived.

turtle on the beach in tel aviv beach

Joseph LeMaire, Yonah, and an onlooker
Photo Credit: Yaniv Levy, Israel Nature and Parks Authority

During that hour, we were trying every way possible to not allow her to go back into the water. If she did, she would surely die, if she ever made it fully out. She constantly tried to turn herself around towards the sea, as minimal amounts of water lapped against her barnacle covered shell. We found a muscular Israeli guy to pick her up out of the water and bring her to the dry area of the sand.

We talked to her, people walking by stopped to visit and inquire about this odd scene on the nighttime beach, and we even gave her a name.

turtle beached in israel

Joseph LeMaire and Yonah
Photo Credit: Yaniv Levy, Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Introducing, Yonah, the Green Sea Turtle. She is an Eighties baby, about 25 years old now. We decided on the name Yonah (English translation: Jonah), being that we were only a few minutes walk/swim from the Old Jaffa Port area, where the original Jonah, from the Bible, began his seaborne journey, and in the end, was saved.

turtle in tel aviv

Yonah, trying to escape the city
Photo Credit: Yaniv Levy, Israel Nature and Parks Authority

Finally, Yaniv arrived to carry Yonah off to what will be her new home until she is taken care of and fully rehabilitated.¬†Another random Israeli, named Boaz, assisted Yaniv and Joey in transporting her to the truck. She’s a quite strong young lady, with a strong spirit to match. She exhibited this to us openly, which we’re happy to see, because we know she will not only survive, but also succeed, when she is released into her natural habitat.

If you would like more information about Israel’s Nature & National Parks Protection Authority and various specific projects relating to sea turtles, you can find it at The Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center.