Exotic Blooms in the Land of Milk and Honey

Just One Hour To . . . Capernum

Winged Beauty Butterflies

Scilla wildflowers, photographed by Jeff Zablow in Society for the Protection of Nature Hermon, Israel

Two Unforgettable flower stalks, perched on a rocky hill edge, overlooking the verdant (OMG! green) northern border of Israel. I was determined to save my film for butterflies, but c’mon, how could I not succumb to this temptation? March 2015 in the Golan Heights region of Israel. A wet winter insured the arrival of a Spring with flowers blanketing the land, and rare wildflowers determined to capitalize on the excellent growing conditions.

These Hyacinth Squill blooms (Scilla Hyacinthoides) dotted the sides of these hills, on the SPNI Hermon Reserve. They enjoy a short growing season, and are listed as a Protected Species. The expanse of view looks to the northwest, into Lebanon. Lebanon, a country wracked with violence. A pastoral view then, with bad-boy land to the horizon.

Yes, this is primarily a butterfly blog, but . . . the camera made me do it!

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2019? Peace?

Cow photographed by Jeff Zablow on Mt. Hermon, Israel, 6/16/08

The memories stream back to me. We, Eran, my guide and I were on the peak of Mt. Hermon. Standing on the extreme northeastern border of Israel, Hermon has us looking into embattled Syria. You are seeing perhaps 180 miles of southern Syria. When was this image taken? June 2008. The cow was owned by Syrians, and it wandered to the peak of Hermon, 7,000 feet, to graze.

I was searching for butterflies, endangered ones. The views take your breathe away ones. Never to be forgotten. June it was there in Israel, and we hiked with temperatures in the mid-90’s. Eran was a huge man, and he carried liters of water for us, on that mountaintop. Few others were seen up there, and all the time we were under the surveillance of Israeli Army security.

That bovine and its 15 or so companions wandered up there, to I suppose, graze. The landmine Eran found, chastened me, and made me wonder how she manages to avoid them, or do they?

We sure found special, rare butterflies that day, drank drank drank, and managed to avoid other land mines.

Now, the farmers and Syrians who lived down there are all dead or gone, replaced by soldiers and spies and ISIS crazies from Iran, Russia, North Korea, the Syrian Army, Hezbollah, People Republic of China and other crazies. You see a pastoral landscape, but what actually followed was . . . a killing field. Men, women and children.

I’ve sought to return to this extraordinary mountain top since this day in June 2008. Each year I tried I was forbidden from going up there. The Israeli military control it, and they are ever diligent.

Did you stop back where I shared that the Syrians who lived there just a decade ago are all gone or dead? When I think of that, on this day that reminds us of so much, I have trouble grappling with what happened down there, less than a decade ago.

I was there for the butterflies, some 10 or so species found nowhere else in the world! What happened down there soon after, just stuns me. This mountaintop, back in 1967 was a bloody battleground. It now is the borderline between Israel and Syrian forces, Hezbollah forces, Russian forces, our own U.S. forces, North Korean advisors, ISIL savages, Pakistani advisors, Syrian ‘Rebel’ forces and who knows who else.

That region is gorgeous, rich in wildlife and desperately needs a rest, say 100 years of Peace?

Jeff

Mt. Hermon and The ‘Wall’

Brown Argus Butterfly at Mt. Hermon, Israel

When the call went out, on their cellphone network, dozens of butterfly lovers converged on the ‘Wall,’ all anxious to see the Tropical Hairstreak butterfly that had been spotted near the entrance to the Mission, Texas development. 

It happened again when the Gold-Bordered Hairstreak was spotted, nectaring nearby. The Gold Bordered drew a near mob, and earlier I shared how I was considered “selfish” when I came in low and close, for my Macro- lens cannot do its job at a distance of 10 feet.

This Aricia agestis agestis butterfly on the peak of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand suffered an audience of me and my guide, and Erin had sum zero interest in rare butterflies.

Poor Aricia agestis, earning just the excitement of a single butterfly lover, on that overheated, high peak at the roof of Israel.

Jeff

Getting Back to Those Very Rare HolyLand Ones

Parnassius mnemosyne butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Jeff overcame his concern of heights that day, when he and Eran rode the tram up those 7,000 feet to the peak of Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand. We trudged those miles across Hermon’s peak, to find some of the rarest butterflies in the world. We had no GPS, no guidance, no one who told us where to search. It was 95 degrees F that day, full sun on Hermon. Eran is a bull of a guide, and he carried some many liters of water for us.

We were alone up there, except for a group of kids who came up later, briefly, and a German with his own guide, traversing this world birding site. That was good, for when good butterflies appeared, Jeff easily went off trail to follow them. Those trails were made by cattle, Arab cattle (Syrian or Israeli Arabs ?) that have cut those trails amidst the rock, for what, thousands of years? Off trail Jeff became on-trail Jeff when later in the day, Eran call me over to show me a land mine that had been missed by the sappers who clear those tools of war.

Did we? Yes. We saw many rare butterflies, including Parnassius mnemosyne syra, shown here. She incredibly closely related to the swallowtail butterflies! I love this image, and I remember this moment.

It’s been years, and I want to go back. Problem is that war is raging just down the north slope of Mt. Hermon, and some of the most notorious mass murderers on this planet are down there, seeking to kill.

If I could return to that mountain peak, with its extraordinary butterflies and habitat . . . would you go too?

Jeff

 

Golan Delights

Nordmannia Myrtale butterfly photographed by Jeffrey Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

How many years have gone by since I met this rare, Protected HolyLand butterfly? Ten. It was in 2008, Rachel’s Mother, Frieda A”H passed away on January 4. Before she left us, Frieda, some weeks before we lost her, urged Rachel to fulfill her plans, and go to Israel. Rachel was headed to Tel Aviv to join the Public Accounting Firm of Ernest & Young. Rachel, shrewd as she always was, told her Mom that she would stay by her side, and wave off the excellent job offer. Frieda remained strong to the very end, and in her way, told Rachel Go! Rachel, just 2 weeks after Frieda died, was flying to Israel.

Me? Frieda’s loss changed me much. My concerns about dying pretty much evaporated. Maybe that’s why I made this trip? I wanted to visit Rachel, just 6 months later, see her new apartment, and show our extended family in Israel that we supported Rachel. Rachel met Uri at about that time, and fast forward to today, they have 2 sons, and Rachel is Happy. Very.

My resolve to bust out some, after that horrific 7+ years, nourished my decision to hire Eran Banker, who guided me up to the top of Mt. Hermon. I gulped and rode the 7,000 foot cable car to the top of the mountain peak. Mt. Hermon is known to be the only place in the world for some 12 species of butterfly. I could not have known then, that the north face of Mt. Hermon would today be a Hot! battlefield, with absolute carnage, boiling up just where Eran and I looked down on Syria from our mountaintop perch.

Here’s one of the very rare, Protected butterflies that we found and I shot on that biblical mountain, Nordmannia myrtale, she perched on a leaf, in the early morning sunlight. Those 7 hours on Hermon delivered rare butterflies time and time again. I think that day aided me, I very much needed to heal, and I needed to bust out!! I needed to take a respite from that recurring thought: ’40 Years . . . 40!’

For an unlikely street fighter from Brooklyn, who managed to make it, and married Good, So very Good, and who withstood deceit from trusted associates, and who . . . finding the rarest of the rare on a fabled mountain of the Bible, with the sun lashing us with its 95F waves, greeting these extraordinary butterflies was so very Special. I thought up there, Thank You G-d, for dishing out Yo-r most special butterflies, to one so vulnerable, as I was there and then. Honest.

Jeff