israel: some nature experiences


We spent February in Israel. It was the end of winter, the weather generally mild. Perfect for checking out some local nature spots.

Cyclamen Hill, in the Ramot Menashe Park, is a pine forest that provides a perfect habitat for a winter display of wild cyclamens, as well as a sprinkling of other wildflowers.


Sheets of wild cyclamens

School children and their teachers doing some nature study

Up in the pine canopy
Cyclamen persicum: usually seen captive in pots in shops - these are wild!



Ricotia lunaria


Anemone coronaria

Erodium gruinum

Sinapis arvensis

Senecio vernalis






























































The landscape is incredibly varied for such a small country. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel(SPNI) campaigns to protect the environment and natural resources.

One such campaign is conducting Urban Nature Surveys in all major communities to help municipal authorities protect urban nature. I wonder what they'll suggest for Netanya, a seaside town with hundreds of feral cats living in shrubbery near the beach, loved and well fed by the locals.


Another campaign focuses on invasive species. I saw many Australian indigenous plants happily growing in the harsh environment, and some have apparently become invasive, like the Blue Leaf Wattle.



You see lots of olive trees and date palms, just as one would expect in the land of the bible. But in the Garden of Gesthemene, where Jesus is believed to have been arrested, grow some of the oldest olive trees in the world. Three of them have been scientifically dated as being over 2000 years old. This means that they have been living in the garden since the time of Jesus and witness to everything that has happened in Jerusalem since then! They are truly awe inspiring.
















The Carmel mountain range in the north was a great place to visit for a nature fix. There were lots of trees  - pine, olive, oak and laurel - and other vegetation, with the Oren river flowing through it and forming small peaceful lakes like the one we visited.


A confronting expedition was to Mt Bental, in the northern mountainous area of the Golan Heights. The Golan Heights is fiercely contested land because of its military strategic value. It belonged to Syria, but was won by Israel in the 1973 war.

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The views are spectacular - of Mt Herman, Israel's highest snow covered peak, Syria, Lebanon, the Hula Valley and Mt Avital.



Even trees have to be tenacious to hold onto this land.


Comments

  1. It's a shame to think, isn't it, that we contest the possession of land? I know it's an inevitability, that land, like anything else material, must "belong" to someone. But wouldn't it be nice if we were all just the stewards of the land, with no division? We have a long way to go.

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    1. For indigenous people, as far as I understand, they belong to the land, not the other way round. That seemed to work for a long time. They still had wars though. But Faisal, your vision of us all being stewards of the land with no divisions is beautiful.

      I actually tried to avoid politics in this post, but couldn't resist including my dramatic photos from Mt Bental!

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    2. they do make the blood run cold, imagining them seen from a distance, from the other side.

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  2. I think we forget most animals including ourselves are territorial. Is this a God given trait or something we must overcome to fully evolve? I think maybe we should listen to the trees. They must know something after 2000 yrs.

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    1. Hi Susan, They must know something, but will they share their knowledge with such short-lived impulsive restless beings such as humans? And if they do, will we understand? Does the answer lie in the realm of mysticism? Or realpolitik? Or both?

      btw your comment made me think of an extraordinary tree that has been found in the Amazon. You may have heard of it. It is a walking tree that hitches up its roots to follow the light and moves 7 metres or more.

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  3. Thanks for the tour. It's an incredible part of the world. Your photos certainly do it justice, and that field of wild Cyclamen! Wow! Also, I didn't realize there were Olive trees that old there. Amazing! Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing highlights of your trip!

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    1. so pleased you enjoyed the post Beth.

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  4. What a wonderful experience, going to the Holy Land. The sheets of cyclamen were breathtaking and show what nature, and the ants, can do without human interference! I thought the photos of the ancient olive trees were wonderful, amazing to think of all that they must have witnessed. thanks for sharing your trip with us.

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    1. hi Pauline, it was truly a wonderful experience, but I was aware how much I didn't get to see, and hope to be able to go back some time. So much variation in landscape in such a small space is quite amazing. I didn't make it to the Negev desert in the south.

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  5. I didn't expect Israel would be quite so lush. The cyclamen photograph is breathtaking with the light shining through the trees in the background. Also I want to plant those red Anemones at home they make a great mass planting specimen.

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    1. Hi Alex, lovely to 'meet' a new cyberfriend, especially a local one. In the Negev while we were in Israel they had a 'Red Festival' to celebrate the masses of wild red Anemones that flower each winter. It sounded wonderful but we couldn't go. (can't do everything, dammit!) I couldn't grow anemones in my garden because they'd need watering, but they could grow really well in Macedon. Good luck, I look forward to seeing and hearing how it goes ... http://www.jpost.com/Sci-Tech/Article.aspx?id=304130 ... that's a link to an article about the festival with divine photos.

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  6. Thank you for sharing your trip with us, Catmint! More than twenty years ago I visited Jerusalem and Bethlehem with my husband.

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    1. hi Satu, 20 years in the lives of those olive trees must be equivalent to about tem minutes of our lives!

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  7. Wow what an amazing place with such rich plant history...thanks for showing those very special olive trees!

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    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed the post Donna.

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  8. Those are lovely photographs - they really show the natural beauty of Israel. I tend to think of Israel as being semi-desert, but obviously some parts are wet enough to be forested. Those ancient olive trees are incredible - it's amazing to think of how much history has gone on around them! Lots of lovely wildflowers, too.

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    1. hi RPS, lovely to hear from you. A lot of Israel is arid desert or semi-desert, and most plants can't grow there. Olive trees, date palms, pomegranate and rosemary are perfect for the climate and you see them just about everywhere.

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  9. Hi Catmint,

    I love your photos of the cyclamens and olive trees - and also of the cats, who are my neighbours!

    One of the great things about Israel is the wildflowers, especially in spring, when lots of fields and forests are covered in masses of pink, blue, red and yellow.

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    1. dearest bubbles, I am so pleased you approve of the cyclamen and olive tree photos, and especially the photos of your neighbours, quite possibly the fattest feral cats in the world!

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  10. An interesting post.
    People invade, take over, drive out. Plants do the same. I never thought of Australian species being seen as invasive. AGA told me that Australian plants are often quite at home and quite successful invaders because they do not have to contend with the diseases and parasites that attack them on home turf.

    Israel is a place I would love to visit. A cousin of mine goes there every two years. Perhaps AGA can do that before we return to Melbourne. YOur photographs certainly give me food for thought on the matter.

    Bye for now and a belated welcome back!
    Kirk

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    1. hi Kirk, lovely to catch up again. Re Australian plants being successful invaders I suppose it depends which plants and where they are. The article I gave the link to in replying to Alex's comment above, referred to eucalypts dying in a 10 year drought. Hope you make it to Israel before you come back to Melbourne, it's a fascinating place. (and it's easy to turn out fascinating blog posts based on your experiences there!)

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  11. Thanks for sharing your nature discoveries at Israel! I am so happy to see this side of the country. The usual stories I read, see and hear of are the stories and places where Jesus went and been to. Love that cyclamen hill and the plants that have caught your eyes. I will definitely keep this destination in my list of to be places :-D Have a blessed day.

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    1. thanks for your visit and comment Steph.

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  12. I am impressed. I had a chance to go to Israel eons ago and never took the trip. I would have never looked at the country as being so diverse. The first few images make me think of places in this country, but then again, this country is huge with places that look like what I think of Israel too, dry and tawny looking. You showed a side I did not imagine. As much as I would be drawn to the natural areas, I would be enamored with the ancient architecture and meaningful history. It is a country rich in 'riches' from what I gather. Riches in culture, history, nature, and life. Sad that it has daily strife and unrest.

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    1. Hi Donna, thanks for the comment. We found Israel to be an incredibly vibrant, fascinating place to visit, because of the riches and the enormous political challenges.

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  13. This is a part of the world that I have never visited and so I found this interesting. 2000 year old olive trees! That's impressive! The hillside of cyclamen was quite beautiful. Here cyclamen generally come in pots. Were you nervous at all to be in an area with some unrest? I found even the silhouettes of men with guns a bit unnerving.

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    1. Hi Jennifer, I wasn't scared, I wandered round and talked to lots of people, some of whom were very bitter. But mostly they responded when they realized I was trying to understand and empathize with their situation. I agree, the silhouettes of men with guns were unnerving, especially as a contrast to the beautiful countryside.

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    2. Dear Jennifer, I have been thinking about my answer to your interesting comment. I think in reality I wasn't scared because armed soldiers and police were everywhere protecting dumb tourists like me.

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  14. A 2000 year old tree? That's truly amazing! I love this post because so many of the images of Israel we see are of violence. It's easy to forget how beautiful the country is if that's all you see.

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    1. Hi Tammy, I'm so pleased to broaden people's view - the violence exists, but so does everyday life, the beauty of the landscape.

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  15. Great Photos! Reminds me of spring that is comming our way. It is coming like a lion but we'll take it any way we can. Just did a post on the Giant Gippsland Earthworm have you ever seen one or are they pretty rare to see? Was amazed when I heard about them!Would love to here from ya if you get a chance. Have a great day!
    Thanks Rodney
    http://restlesshandswithmanyplans.blogspot.com/

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    1. hi Rodney, I'm so pleased you have found my blog. I will definitely be visiting your blog. I have seen those giant worms, years ago, they're amazing. I'm reading a book about worms at the moment, so it's really good timing.

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  16. I wonder if they already have a scheme to neuter and tag the feral cats?

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    1. I wondered that, Diana. The thing is, those particular cats seemed to be so well fed I don't think they were eating birds or other wildlife. It was a bit weird, they were like the town pets in a way.

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