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!|
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.
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.