SPRING IN ISRAEL
While in Israel From Feb. 17 to March 3 for meetings, etc. (without Howard), I was astounded and delighted by the greenery all around me and the proliferation of flowers.
After we arrived, we drove north to Menahemia, just south of the Kineret (Sea of Galilee), and I gloried in the green of the fields and hills around us. I had been in the same place the previous January, but the green was much more intense this time around.
An amazing spring flower in Israel is the calanit (anemone or wind flower in translation). They are usually in blossom in February or early March, and more common in the south than in the north of the country. I had not seen any since 1972. When I climbed Gamla on the Golan Heights on Feb. 19, I noticed several sprinkled on the hills where we walked and took their pictures as they bravely stood up to the strong, cold winds.
But after I arrived at the hotel on the beach in Ashkelon on Febuary 21 for meetings, I noticed a few more in clumps near the sidewalk.
Later, the following Friday, we saw more calaniot at Beit Guvrin, west of the Hebron Hills as well as lots of almond trees in bloom.
However, the next day, when our friends Haim and Shuna took us to see the fields of calaniot accross from Kibbutz Sa'ad in the Northern Negev, I really was blown away. I even found a white one, nestled among alll the red ones. I later found out from my cousin's daughter that different colors of calaniot have been made for planting at home, but only the red (and I guess an albino one or two) grow in the wild.
While in the Hof Ashkelon region for our TIPPS Partnership 2000 meetings, we saw the Nitzanim nature preserve north of Ashkelon. The sand dunes there were once part of the dunes extending from the Sinai/Saudi desert, and certain plants grow there that cannot grown anywhere else in Israel. A member of the TIPPS steering committee tried to replant the following shrub nearby, but it would not grow in other soil/sand in the area with similar weather.
The flowers were not the only spring items that amazed me. The greenery was fantastic too. Last summer when we were at Gamla, everything was dry. Now it is a lush green.
So is the area around Shoval (above right) , 20 minutes NNW ofBeersheva. Ialso took a picture at the kibbutz of the flower (growing from a seed pod) on a tree--the flower looked and felt like cotton. Another unusual flower on Shoval was a red "bottle-brush" flower--hanging in abundance from trees.
After leaving Gamla, we headed north and saw the snow on the Hermon. Since it was Shabbat, lots of Israelis were on the road, going to see the snow. The road to the ski area on the Hermon was closed, however, because there were too many cars there already, so when we drove up Har Ben-Tal next to Kibbutz Merom Golan, the whole parking lot was filled, mainly with Israelis trying to see some snow. I took a picture of several children playing in the melting snow along side Cafe Koffi Anan (Cafe` Anan--Coffee in the clouds).
While drving down from Nimrod's Castle on the Northern lower Golan, we saw lots of cars parked by the side of the road. We pulled over and saw the Saar Waterfall, a waterfall that only runs intermitently from late November to February, depending on the rains. It was huge--longer than Bannias. Later on in the year, The Saar Steam dries out, but not before the Druze village of Masadeh has dammed it for irrigation purposes.
BTW, February is "tutim" (strawberry) month in Israel. They are only available for a month or so, but are absolutely delicious. Several hours before Shabbat began, we pick up a flat from a seller on the side of the road at a reduced price and took them to our friends Dalia and Pinchas -- together we ate everyone of them!
I look forward to when Howard retires in four years and we can spend more time in Israel together at this time of year