HAIFA, Israel — The wild pigs of Haifa might not fly, but they seem to do almost everything else.
The boars snooze in people’s paddling pools. They snuffle across the lawns. They kick residents’ soccer balls and play with their dogs. They saunter down the sidewalks and sleep in the streets. Some eat from the hands of humans, and they all eat from the trash.
The wild boars of Haifa, in short, are no longer particularly wild.
Once largely confined to the many ravines that slice through this hilly port city on the Mediterranean, the boars have become increasingly carefree in recent years and now regularly venture into built-up areas, undeterred by their human neighbors.
“It became like an everyday thing,” said Eugene Notkov, 35, a chef who lets his dog play with the boars that putter around the local parks. “They’re a part of our city,” he added. Bumping into one is “like seeing a squirrel.”
animal sightings increased after the pandemic began and people deserted public spaces. But Haifa’s boars started their conquest well before the coronavirus wrought its havoc. In 2019, residents reported 1,328 boar sightings to the city authorities — almost 40 percent more than the 2015 total. The Haifa City Council declined to release data for 2020.
Palestinian citizens of Israel, who form about 10 percent of the city’s population. It is the home of the leader of the country’s largest Arab political party, and its residents elected a female mayor before Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
“I wish we could all in Israel learn to live like they live in Haifa,” said Edna Gorney, a poet, ecologist and lecturer at the University of Haifa. “It’s an example of coexistence — not only between Arabs and Jews, but also between humans and wildlife.”
For dreamers like Ms. Shahar, the painter, it feels almost unsurprising that boars should live cheek by jowl with Haifa’s humans. After moving to Haifa in 2008, she found a city that lends itself to the surreal, and began a series of paintings and drawings that explored what it would look like if the city were overrun with friendly tigers.
“I just had no idea there would actually be wild animals roaming the streets,” said Ms. Shahar. “It seems appropriate in some way.”