Saturday, July 27, 2019

The time of the jellyfish

Photo credit: Wikipedia commons
It is right in the middle of the summer  in Israel. The temperatures are often touching the 40’s and
everyone is irritable and grumpy. So maybe it is a good idea to go and cool off in one of our beautiful
beaches?
Noooo!! It is a terrible idea! No matter how hot it gets or how inviting the blue water in the Mediterranean looks,
do NOT get into the water! Every summer, for usually about two to three weeks, the seas surrounding Israel are invested with
large jellyfish. In the water they look very innocent and are often mistaken for floating plastic bags. Their sting however can be extremely painful. Believe me, I speak from painful  - extreme painful experience.  In the beginning of the jellyfish season it is still possible to share the sea with them. Just keep your
eyes open and make sure that no body part comes in direct contact with the jellyfish. Later on, as their numbers increase, one cannot even be in the water. The slime that they give off has
some poisonous element that burns the skin. It creates an itchy and burning sensation and can even cause small cut-like lesions. The jellyfish only started to arrive in Israel about 30 years ago. They're actually
indigenous to the Indian ocean but gained access to the Mediterranean with the opening of the Suez canal. Every year the jellyfish arrive just as the weather gets REALLY hot and you are just dying for a dip in
the sea. And every year they seem to get bigger...and there is always that impractical joke someone
tells about gathering them to sell them to the Japanese.
Apparently this year the number of jellyfish are much higher than usual. Scientists say it is because of the high rainfall we had last winter that translates into more runoff and nutrients in the sea. Israeli scientists are also now studying exactly how the jellyfish's sting works to improve the way that drugs are delivered
in a human body.

Workers at
the electricity plants that use seawater to cool of their systems as well as those
working at the desalination plants now have to guard against these spineless invaders.

There are still some brave souls venturing into the water during the jellyfish season but I am definitely
NOT one of them. Maybe they have thicker skin or sharper eyes to spot the jellyfish in the water.  But still the first aid stations on the beaches have vinegar in a stray bottle handy for these 'brave' swimmers. The acid helps to neutralize the jellyfishes' sting but it only helps so much. You are still going to suffer.
I had the misfortune so swim straight into a jellyfish. A LARGE one. I was swimming breaststroke and
the underside of my forearm came into full contact with the tentacle side of the jellyfish. The burn is so so bad, it feels as though you cannot breathe.  I knew that I got a bad sting but the widened eyes of the first aid worker on the beach was not
reassuring at all. He basically dumped the entire contents of the vinegar bottle on a soft cloth and pressed it to my arm. And told me to go to a hospital if I feel worse. Luckily I didn't need to go but that burn stayed with me for more than a week.

Never, EVER touch the tentacles of a jellyfish
And do you know how difficult it is to sleep without the underside of your forearm touching anything?

Since the time of my jellyfish sting, we just sit under the air conditioning (or go to a swimming pool)
during jellyfish season. The jellyfish will eventually move on with the tides and leave the Israeli beaches. And finally it will be safe to get into the water again.  Until next year...
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