Why did I want to photograph this cow on the peak of Mt. Hermon, at the very northeastern tip of Israel? Butterflies that June 2008 morning were OMG! exciting. They were quite rare and most were found only on this 7,000 foot high Middle Eastern mountain.
In the midst of my search for butterflies, I noticed the cow, with its huge horns, poised. Put me at this mountain’s edge and I would experience a wave of height anxiety that would cause me to . . . She showed total relaxation, browsing and content, as most cows seem to be.
She was beautiful. The view beyond her? Unbelievable. Syria, looking very exotic, mysterious and greener than I had expected. A view spanning perhaps 60 or 80 or more miles to that distant mountain peak. You see, I could never in my lifetime go there, because in 2008 I would have been seized, and tried for who knows what? and held for years as a bargaining chip for some future swap of “prisoners.” The photographer of butterflies would have been a security threat to a strong Middle Eastern regime.
As I sit here in April 2016, the thought is hard and tragic. The towns you see in this view of Syria, are gone. Gone! Destroyed or ravaged. The people living in those towns, and in the small villages and in the more isolated hamlets, have probably fled or are dead. The whole social fabric of this part of Syria has been destroyed. ISIS is there, the “Rebels” are there and the Government forces are there. Al Queda is there. The Russian forces are there and certainly my own USA is there, somewhere.
The dairy cow that was once sampling little blossoms on the top of Mount Hermon, nearly 7,000 miles east of Pittsburgh, U.S.A would, today, have her back to a killing field. It’s a roaming ground for heavily armed men and women, dead bent on destroying one another. The Syrians who were down there? Some of them are now in Greece, Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, Austria, France, and more.
In 2008, I stood there wondering what Syria’s butterflies looked like. In 2016 . . . I no longer care. Sad as dirt.