“Every year, a lot of birds were dying on the way,” Itzik was saying. Rivky listened, openmouthed. “It was hard for them to cross over the desert, because they couldn’t find food and water there. I told you that a billion migrating birds fly over Eretz Yisrael every year, right? So in the Galil and the Jordan Valley, they set up feeding stations for them. But there were no feeding stations in the Aravah.”

“So what did they birds do?”

Itzik smiled sadly. “What did they do? They just fell down and died — hundreds and thousands of birds every year, because they couldn’t make it over the desert without food or water.”

“The poor things.” My daughter’s big eyes filled with tears.

“So then, people who like nature came and said, let’s set up feeding stations for the birds in the Aravah. Then, when they fly to Africa for the winter, they’ll be able to stop to eat and drink something on the way, and they won’t die.”

Rivky nodded. “That’s a good idea,” she said, and finished up the last bit of salad on her plate. Itzik put some fruit yogurt into her cup and continued the lecture. “And then….”

His phone rang. He rejected the call. “And then they put plankton in the lake in Evrona. You know what plankton is?”

His phone rang again. Itzik looked at the screen, and a look of annoyance passed over his face. “Nudniks,” he said. He rejected the call again, and silenced the ringtone.

I waited for him to go on, because I didn’t know what plankton was, either. Something to do with fish, maybe?

“And did the birds come and eat?” Rivky asked.

As if I were an onlooker, I looked at her, at myself, and at what has become of our little family, and I felt something buoyant spread through me.

“They sure did. And they still do. Lots and lots of storks, pelicans, herons, and flamingos. They stop by there in the spring on their way to Europe, and in the autumn on their way to Africa. They eat and drink, and they rest, and then, when they’re all refreshed, they continue flying.”

“It’s good that they can rest on the way. I get very tired and thirsty, too, on the way home from gan, so Ima made a feeding station for me at Uri’s Juice Bar. How else would I have enough koach to make it home?”

We all laughed. It felt good. Itzik’s phone vibrated. He didn’t answer, he just glared at the phone and huffed irately. “But two flocks of flamingos decided they didn’t have to bother flying to Africa if they were getting fed so well here,” he said, turning back to Rivky. He sounded a bit indignant. “They just decided to stay at the feeding station in Evrona and skip the trip to Africa.”

“And then what happened?”

“Nothing. Those flamingos are still camped out there to this day.”

“Why are you mad at them?” Rivky asked, with sweet childish innocence. I was wondering the same thing. Why was he mad at them?

“Because they pass by and they see free food, so they take advantage. Instead of saying thank you and then getting on with their migration, they just settle themselves down and keep taking. And I don’t like people — or birds — that don’t know their place.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 718)