SWIFT (Heb. סִיס, sis), a bird of the genus Apus of which three species are found in Israel, the most common being Apus apus pekinensis, a small black bird similar to the swallow. Large flights of swifts reach Israel at the end of February and frequent the populated places where their food – flies and mosquitoes – is to be found, filling the air with their cry of "sis-sis," whence their Hebrew name. Their cry sounds like that of a person in pain and to it King Hezekiah compared his groans during his illness (Isa. 38:14). Jeremiah (8:7) notes that the bird arrives in the land at a fixed date. In Israel the swift nests in the interstices of walls and roofs until, at the beginning of July when the fledglings are grown, it returns to South Africa.


Lewysohn, Zool, 209, no. 258; F.S. Bodenheimer, Animal and Man in Bible Lands (1960), 58; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 89.

[Jehuda Feliks]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.