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Hallelujah: Jellyfish swarm departs Tel Aviv after summer of terror

by Simone Wilson

July 24, 2013 | 7:00 am

It was fun while it lasted.

Those cursed "Erythraean alien nomadic jellyfish" who have been planting their tentacles upon Israel's summer masses all month — tourists and locals just trying to enjoy the warm Mediterranean waters off Tel Aviv's kilometers of party beach, and coming up stung — have finally tired of welting our sunburns and continued north to die their grand August deaths, say scientists.

An advisory posted to the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research (IOLR) website in early July, warning beachgoers that the annual swarm was upon us, was replaced with a farewell note yesterday:

An end to the jelly swarm, summer 2013

Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research reports that the annual swarm of the nomadic jellyfish, Rhoplema nomadica, has drifted away from the Israeli coast.

A few stragglers are reported off the northern beaches causing some stings.

Although the shared taxis and coffeehouses of Tel Aviv have been abuzz all month with jelly panic on the part of the foreigners — horror stories of welts the size of pinky fingers and pain worse than a bee sting, and underlying fears that this might just end up being The Worst Summer Ever — it turns out that a nearly identical swarm of Erythraean jellyfish has passed through Tel Aviv once a year, at the same time of year, for the last 15 years (at least).

Dr. Hadas Lubinevsky, a researcher at the IOLR, said that this year's swarm was actually a bit smaller than usual, and cut its typical month-long stay a bit short: The jellies arrived about a week late on July 7, she said, and have taken off after just two-and-a-half weeks of terror.

"They are going with the current, and will continue north," said Lubinevsky. "In a few weeks or so, they will die inside the sea and become organic matter. The jellyfish live only a few months. The current will take them north — probably to Lebanon, Syria or Turkey — where they will die."

So we should be honored, then, to have hosted them for their last hurrah!

"I was stung by a jellyfish on my penis today while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv," Tweeted minor Internet celebrity Casey Neistat on July 11. "That's not how the jellyfish tells it," replied Guardian reporter Stuart Miller.

There are a few other types of jelly who like to hang around off the Israeli coast, as illustrated in the IOLR's lovely "Jellyfish Watch Poster 2013" — but overall, said Lubinevsky, we can swim easy, as there is nothing like the annual coming of the Erythraeans.

"For this year, I think it's over," she said. "Now we have all the summer in front of us."

The minor jellyfish problem of Tel Aviv is not unlike the minor stingray problem of San Diego: You're not going to die if you step on one, and you feel like a total wuss if you actually avoid the ocean for fear of one, but just the idea of one, and all that pain anticipation, can sometimes be enough to sorta ruin the whole wet part of your beach day. And the worst thing is, you often can't even see them coming: "Sometimes the hair of the jellyfish comes off because of heavy waves or something like that, and it can still sting for a few hours after it comes off the jellyfish," Lubinevsky explained. "So it comes very fast to the shore, and it stings the people, but you don't see the jellyfish."

Which makes it all the more entertaining for the poker-faced Israelis, who are about as nonchalant about underwater stingy things as they are about homemade rockets from Gaza, to watch unsuspecting tourists do the jelly dance back to their beach towels all July. 'Til next year, wussies!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Simone Wilson is a 26-year-old journalist from Northern California currently living in Tel Aviv, Israel. She served as editor in chief of UC San Diego’s student newspaper, the...

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