Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel and offering panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, Haifa is the third largest city in Israel – a major port and a multicultural hub blending Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities. It’s also a lovely home for many hundreds of wild boars.

Who hasn't seen a wild boar swimming in the neighbor's pool, playing in a playground or just picking their favorite fruit at the local market? If you’re from anywhere on earth besides my city, Haifa, you probably haven’t, for many good reasons. 

But this article is not about wild boars. Is about how we, humans, act when someone wants to influence our behavior. And how irrationally we react to new phenomena. Wait, didn’t we just talk about wild boars?

By Abir Sultan, EPA Images

Despite weighing between 50-150kg on average, these boars are hand-fed by many of Haifa’s residents, which encourages them to leave their cozy yet risky forest and visit the city, where delicious food is in easy  reach. But seeing as we’re talking about animals that are huge, noisy and often quite unpleasant, how hard could it be for the local government to convince people to stop doing this?

When it comes to organizations trying to influence us, intimidation is often a go-to tactic. Everything from shampoo brands to cybersecurity firms, and even your favorite organic yogurt, will threaten you into using their product, or else. And considering the human instinct to survive and get away from what puts us at risk, this makes some kind of sense. Haifa’s government used the same tactic with our wild boars, by posting up warning signs and introducing fines for anyone caught feeding these big pigs. Did it work out?

Well, as we know, drawing people’s attention to something can have an unintended outcome. 

This was the case for former NBA player Brian Scalabrine, who was once just another bench player but became a worldwide basketball phenomenon. Addressing critiques of his career, and challenges to beat him one-on-one, he stated, "I'm closer to LeBron than you are to me." This led to him becoming a phenomenon among basketball fans worldwide, with a line of sell-out merch.

The same happened to our wild boars. 

“Tourists told me that they walked around the city looking for wild boars, didn't see any, and got upset.” Einat Kalish, former Mayor of Haifa in 2021.

And that, well, that escalated pretty quickly; from a local pub crafting a new "boar beer" to the city’s rugby team naming themselves after the animals, the people of the city had definitely reacted but not as the city government had anticipated. 

The years have passed since then and the hype has grown, from a feature article in the New York Times and other leading media outlets across the globe, to more cultural pieces and art in the country, putting the spotlight on the ‘boaring’ city from the north. 

Bizarre as it may sound, this wave of popularity could have been predicted, just by looking at what influences human behavior. We are curious, and tend to listen and explore best when unexpected things take us away from our day-to-day. Didn’t we just talk about wild boars?