JERUSALEM -- On a quiet Friday evening, as the city settles down for Sabbath, the soundtrack of Jerusalem combines Jewish song and clattering dinner plates with Muslim calls to prayer -- often accompanied by the unholy racket of the city’s enormous population of wild cats going for it.

Peek into the dumpsters? Chances are there’s a cat enjoying some fine dining. Muslim, Christian or Jew? The cats don’t care. They’re in every neighborhood.

So there’s a problem with street cats. (Though this correspondent will attest, it is rare to see a rat).

Israel’s agricultural minister Uri Ariel proposed a solution.

The cats could be deported, he suggested.

Not all cats, of course. That would be crazy. Only male cats. Or female cats. Depending. But either way, only one gender of cat needs to be sent to a receptive third country, to be determined.

How this might work -- chartered flights, little parachutes, arms deals -- Ariel doesn’t say. Nor is the list of countries willing to take Israel’s cats likely very long.

As reporter Amir Ben-David wrote in the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, “If it weren’t written in black and white in a formal document bearing the symbols of the State of Israel, some people might have assumed that this was a joke.” The headline for his piece was "Transfurrrrrrr."

Israeli print, television and radio commentators were howling -- and punning as fast they can -- on Monday when they learned Ariel sent a letter to the environment ministry suggesting that the $1 million spent annually spaying and neutering feral cats and dogs be used to “transfer dogs and/or cats of one gender (either all the males or all the females) to a foreign country that agrees to take them in."

Ariel was concerned that removing the private parts of cats and dogs may violate Jewish law, specifically God’s instruction “to be fruitful and multiply.”

On Monday, the hashtag #cat-transfer (in Hebrew) began trending **on Twitter** with comments such as “Do you want to go with me to the Temple Mount and transfer cats?” or “We are going to war against cats in the name of God.”

Israel’s street cats have taken the commandment to heart. The dogs? Not so much. Street dogs are no more visible than the strays or abandoned pets would be on the streets of Washington.

Yedioth Ahronoth quoted Israeli parliamentarian Tamar Zandberg, of the left-wing Meretz party, urging the agricultural minister to reconsider: ending the program of “spaying and castrating will result in a dramatic rise in the number of kittens that are born every year and, as a result, also a rise in the number of street cats that die of hunger, thirst, cold, dehydration and more.”

The newspaper reports that over the years more than 100,000 cats have been castrated and spayed by the agriculture ministry and local authorities.

In fairness, Ariel did propose a second option to deportation, to wit: “We use the money to research ways to prevent stray animals from reproducing, for example a spray or powder that would stop the males from smelling the females.”

Ariel is a staunch defender of Jewish settlements in the West Bank who also advocates the return of Jewish prayer at the raised esplanade that includes the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, a site both Jews and Muslims revere.

To muzzle the guffaws, the agricultural ministry issued a statement Monday that read: “Minister Ariel sees the issue of stray animals as a very serious problem that needs a very serious response.”

It highlighted that several meetings had been held to examine the available options and “review alternative proposals that do not include killing or torturing animals.”

“Among other proposals raised during the consultation was also the possibility of moving the animals to a foreign country would agree to that,” the response read.

Lucky for the cats (and dogs), that idea was rejected by the ministry’s Chief Scientist Dr. Avi Perl, who is currently looking into other solutions versus forced deportation to third countries.

Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.