Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has done extensive
doctoral studies in Middle Eastern Affairs. He has created and
conducted counter-Arab propaganda programs for college youth, has
lectured on numerous campuses and other platforms, and has publicly
debated many Arab spokesmen. His articles and op-eds have been
published in dozens of newspapers, magazines, academic journals and
websites all around the world.
Read more by the Author
July 1, 2012
Despite his sometimes wishy washy politics, it's
hard to beat a Spielberg movie…
With Steven's classic film in mind for the title of
this essay's virtual namesake, I decided to take a
break today from my usual focus--the tumultuous
In all honesty, having been involved in this subject
intimately for well over four decades now, there
really isn't too much that I haven't studied,
researched, thought, or written about regarding the
core, major issues making the news--and other items
that should have also been doing so, but weren't,
for assorted reasons.
With non-stop bloodletting continuing in much of the
so-called "Arab" world, and the usual choice of the
masses being to either settle politically for rule
by megalomaniacal secular tyrants or bigoted and
fanatical religious despots, I've decided to let the
dust settle a bit before once again adding my own
two cents into the widespread commentary and
The immediate impetus for this decision came about
courtesy of the United States Postal Service…well,
sort of. Let me explain.
With an extensive background in biology in
additional to Middle Eastern Studies, I've come to
know my home state of Florida's fauna pretty well
since moving here in 1985.
When we built our home on threatened scrub habitat
several stones' throw away from the ocean, we tried
to cause the least disruption possible and left much
of our property in its natural state. As a result,
we've been blessed with threatened Scrub Jays,
Gopher Tortoises, Painted and Indigo Buntings,
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnakes, land crabs, and so
forth visiting us as well as the usual raccoons,
anole lizards, tree frogs, black racers, toads, box
turtles, cardinals, blue jays, opossums, and so
forth…all on just about a third of an acre of land.
But the critter which prompted this essay was
something all-too-common for this neck of the
woods--er scrub habitat.
As I pulled up to my mailbox after a workout at the
gym the other day, I reached out of the car window
and grabbed the lip of the mailbox door to open it.
I felt something fuzzy from below and realized I had
put my fingers into a shallow web built under the
After I retrieved the mail, I then prodded the very
shallow lip where my fingers had just visited with a
Sure enough, in all of her glory, one of the biggest
black widow spiders, showing off a glistening red
hour glass on her abdomen, fell onto the ground.
Over the years, I've seen numerous brown and black
widows on my property. I suspect I have red ones in
the palmetto as well. Often, their golden, round
egg sacks can be spotted
under outdoor furniture, under shelving in garages,
and so forth. The round ones with spikes are brown
widow sacks; the non-spiked ones are the black
widow's future babies. I've known for years to be
careful about where to place my hands--yet, we all
get lax at times.
I got lucky. Momma Widow--like most widows--wasn't
really aggressive towards people, and I avoided
getting injected with a powerful neurotoxin venom
reported to be 15 times stronger than a
rattlesnake's. Having some fairly serious medical
conditions, I'd be at considerable risk if bitten.
While the widow family is widespread, Florida seems
to be prime territory for them (as it is for exotic
invasive species such as Nile Monitor Lizards,
Burmese Pythons, Brazilian Pepper Trees which have
killed most of my native Scrub Oaks, and so
forth)--and my property, in particular. Oh yes…we
have numerous other varieties of arachnids here as
well. My children, G_d bless, say that the movie
Arachnophobia could have been filmed inside my house
and on the rest of my property. I won't use toxic
pesticides--with the sole exception of what's
required in my termite contract (applied once a year
and only as needed).
This USPS widow experience got me thinking about all
the other close encounters of the Florida kind I've
had over the years.
There was the time, for example, while wading
through San Carlos Bay near Sanibel, searching for
mollusk specimens like Rose Petal Tellins, Pear
Whelks, Horse and Fighting Conches, and Apple
Murexes, that I finally took my eyes away from the
underwater formations and looked upwards--and right
into the eyes, not more than three feet away, of an
osprey curiously watching my every move from a tree
stump along the water's edge. Its nest was in the
tree above. It was making sure I was one of the good
And then there was the time in the Keys, while
wading off of Sombrero Beach on Marathon, that when
I turned around I came face to face with a five foot
long barracuda, loaded with daggers for teeth,
staring at me with cold, steely eyes. The list goes
But, since I began this part of the essay by
discussing events on my own property, let's continue
When my three of four oldest kids were young, I had
always warned them about staying away from the
adjacent undeveloped lots with their palmetto
In one especially hot September, I picked the kids
up from school and walked onto the side of the
house--about ten feet from the outside wall--to
water the beautiful yellow alamanda flowers. They
sat right next to some of my own palmetto under a
scrub oak tree.
I had filled a bucket, was tired and hot, and
proceeded to slowly spread out the water to the
All of a sudden, there was a loud swishing
noise--like my lawn sprinkler system had gone
off…but, it hadn't.
Now, keep in mind that I'm a dedicated fisherman for
many decades now--and I hate fishermen who tell tall
tales. They give us all a bad name. Having said
that, let's continue…
I bent down next to the alamanda and looked under
the palmetto fronds--which I had constantly told the
children to be careful about. I soon found out what
the source of that swishing noise was…
Uh oh…take two.
I had just doused an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake
(America's largest poisonous reptile) which, when
coiled, was as thick as my thigh…that made it at
least 7 feet long. I called the kids over to see
what I had been talking about, keeping them a safe
distance in back of me. Like the others, there's
much more to this story as well, but for the sake of
space, let's move on to the next up close and
personal Florida encounter.
Soon after moving here, I met a great native
Floridian. On one of our fishing trips, both Harry
and I were standing right next to the water's edge
near the bumpers of a small bridge on Bulow Creek
where I had earlier hooked a nice snook from.
All of a sudden, from out of nowhere, Albert rose to
the surface within petting distance of both of us.
Albert was the 11 to 12 foot 'gator who routinely
raided the crab traps in the area. Again, I don't
tell fish tales regarding size and such. Some idiot
months earlier had coaxed Albert to come entirely
out of the water with a piece of chicken in order to
take his picture--so I know Albert's size (and I'm a
very good estimator…have checked myself many times).
Harry and I both aged a few years that day…
As the proud "father" of Contessa and Maximus--my
Chocolate and Yellow Labrador Retrievers--my latest
'gator tale hit too close to home.
Another man took his own Lab out for a swim just up
the road from us a few days ago. Unfortunately, he
wound up making front page news when a large 'gator
got his beloved dog. It's easy to blame the man for
his ignorance…after all, this is Florida. Yet, he
was a newcomer and said he just didn't know. You
just can't be too careful.
And there was the time when my canoe tipped over in
the Ocklawaha River--right after we had spotted a
9-footer sunning himself on the bank. On that same
weeklong wetlands excursion with other colleagues,www.ekurd.net
we discovered a coral snake with its head crushed
outside the ladies cabin one morning. Someone had
inadvertently stepped on it and crushed its small
skull the night before. Coral snakes, while shy
creatures, are cousins to the deadly cobras.
Widows, Eastern Diamondbacks, 'gators…
The old Ormond fishing pier got nailed by a
nor'easter right before I moved to Florida in 1985.
Its posts, however, still attracted assorted
creatures which in turn brought in target fish
It was a low energy summer day. The ocean was as
flat as an ice skating rink. I hit the water real
early to avoid the heat later on.
I waded chest deep into the Atlantic to cast my line
towards the pilings. Structure holds fish.
I was connecting nicely, and reeling fish in from
the area of the posts towards myself. I was probably
about 60 or 70 feet from the shore.
Then it happened…I got
hit solidly from behind and went flying forward into
I got up, looked around--half expecting to see a
kid's runaway surfboard as my attacker.
But there was no surfboard, no surfers, no one else
in sight…just me, myself, and I on a very earlier
Now, again, as someone who is very interested in
biology--especially the marine type--I knew what was
going on. I knew--but didn't want to know…I was
catching fish. And I wasn't about to leave.
Like a total fool, I retrieved my rod, shook the
water out from my reel--and then went back into the
water…How do you spell "idiot?"
Yep, I soon got wacked again from behind--but this
time I was praying to High Heaven and promised I'd
never be so dumb again--at least not in the near
Remember the scene from that other amazing Spielberg
movie, Jaws, when folks on shore kept on telling the
guy swimming from the collapsed pier not to look
back but to keep on quickly coming to shore?
Well, as I got up this second time from the water
and turned towards the beach, I noticed a young boy
and what must have been his grandmother frantically
waving at me from the condo balcony from above. They
were screaming, "get out…don't you see the fins
swimming in and around the pilings?"
No, I didn't…I was focused on my fishing and they
had a better view from above of the whole situation.
On other occasions, I had indeed spotted such
fins--but not this time. And besides, fishing does
things to me…
As with the black widow, I had lucked out here
The water was clear, and these were big--but
fish-eating--sharks. These weren't West Coast,
seal-devouring Great Whites (yet my county in
Florida, Volusia, is known as the shark attack
capital of the world).
The ramming I had experienced was shark behavior
which often occurs as a prelude to attack. And while
Great Whites are not common here, assorted species
such as various Tigers, Hammerheads, and Bulls
are--and none of those are to be disrespected
A bit later, in somewhat shallower water, I got
zapped in that same general Ormond Pier area across
my back and legs by a Portuguese Man O' War. It felt
like being hit with an electric cattle prod.
And a few years after that, a few miles north, I
aged another several years when I turned around
while in the water and found that a ten foot long
manatee had silently crept up from behind to examine
me. I have seen many of these amazing creatures in
the estuaries near my house, but this was my first
encounter--again within easy petting distance--in
the ocean. Keep in mind that I was still shaky from
my earlier shark encounter and imagine what was thus
going through my mind during those first seconds
when I sensed that something was behind me.
Finally, before ending this Florida safari, there's
just one last story I'd like to relive with you.
I had usually headed to points south from our home
in north central Florida on my various
eco-excursions. Having heard of loop currents which
brought Caribbean mollusk specimens into the
Panhandle, I decided about twenty years ago to
explore there instead. So, off to the Apalachicola
Bay area we went…
I found the National Estuarine Sanctuary office and
made some contacts. Before long, I was brought into
the back area and shown the very specimens I had
hoped to find on my own…beautiful Queen Helmet
shells, and so forth. It turned out, however, that
to really try to get to these, you had to go to the
outlying islands--and then have the time to
explore--which I didn't.
Later on that same trip, we visited St. Joseph's
Bay--truly an amazing experience. The water is among
the clearest you will find anywhere. On one side of
the road sits the Gulf beach with its 50-ft. high
sand dunes, and on the other side of that same road
sits the bay.
I went wading while my wife played with our now
three older children on the shore. I found many
beautiful specimens, but no new ones that I had not
encountered before. But then it happened…
A pure, bright orange True Tulip http://www.seashells.org/truetulip.htm
is considered a fairly rare find. Indeed, of the
numerous ones I had discovered over the years, few
intact orange specimens were among them.
The day was coming to an end, and the mosquitoes
were getting ready to feast. My wife was calling to
me to come back on shore. As I turned around, the
most beautiful orange True Tulip shell was in front
of me in the clear water.
Unfortunately, however, as I picked it up, its new
occupant--not the original mollusk which made the
shell--came out to greet me.
Don't get me wrong, I was happy for the hermit crab
in his symbioitc commensalism relationship--but just
wished that I had come across an empty shell
instead. It would have been a consolation prize, of
sorts, for not getting a shot at those loop current
Caribbean specimens that I had really come to the
So picture this…
There I was, in St. Joseph's Bay, with my wife
calling to me to hasten my exit, and I was busy
talking to a hermit crab trying to convince him or
her to trade me for the empty beautiful brown True
Tulip shell I had found earlier. And for a while, it
looked like success was within reach. He (she?)
actually came out a
good ways and was
exploring the new shell I was displaying with his
claws. But my wife was getting more impatient, the
mosquitoes were getting more hungry--so I kissed the
hermit crab goodbye, wished him or her a good life,
thanked G_d for His marvelous creations, and watched
a beautiful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico soon
I never did find another orange True Tulip again in
such vivid color and condition. The fault is largely
my own, however--on all counts. Perhaps I need to
stop writing and get out there more…
Tropical Storm Debby recently hit Florida. Sanibel
Island is still rated as one of the top shelling
beaches in the world. Take a look at what washes
ashore after such storms… http://www.iloveshelling.com/blog/category/tulip/true-tulip-tulip/
By square miles, about eight and one half Israels
could fit into Florida. And each time I travel to go
on my close encounters of the Florida kind
throughout this glorious state, I'm reminded that
the much maligned, allegedly "expansionist" Jew of
the Nations requires a magnifying glass to find it
on a world globe.
Somehow I just can't see the justice in expecting
the sole, resurrected state of the Jews to grossly
endanger itself so that Arabs may obtain their 22nd
nation (most of which they conquered and forcibly
Arabized from other, non-Arab peoples), and
second--not first--in the original 1920 Mandate of
Palestine. Jordan indeed sits on almost 80% of that
territory. Yet that is indeed what much of the world
expects of it.
But I said I was going to avoid discussing the
Middle East for now.
So, until next time, plan you own amazing Florida
excursion…but try to avoid the young male black
bears being chased out of the Ocala National Forest
by the older boys. I almost hit one crossing the
road just a few miles from my house the other day.
Gerald A. Honigman is a Florida educator who has
done extensive doctoral studies in Middle Eastern
Affairs. He has created and conducted counter-Arab
propaganda programs for college youth, has lectured
on numerous campuses and other platforms, and has
publicly debated many Arab spokesmen. His articles
and op-eds have been published in dozens of
newspapers, magazines, academic journals and
websites all around the world. Visit his
Gerald A. Honigman, a longtime contributing writer
for Ekurd.net. Honigman has published a major book,
Quest For Justice In The Middle East--The
Arab-Israeli Conflict In Greater Perspective."
By Gerald A. Honigman for EKurd.net, July 1, 2012. You may reach the
author via email at: honigman6 (at) msn.com.
Copyright © 2012 ekurd.net.
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