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?



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.


Chaucer’s Favorite Butterflies

Coupled Copper Butterflies I photographed by Jeff Zablow at Neve Ativ, Israel

Imagine how big the smile on Jeff’s face. Almost 2 hours in the meadow on the slope of Mt. Hermon. Jeff chasing Israeli blue butterflies, coppers and other Lycaenidae (the smallest of the butterflies, excluding the skippers). Sure there were many on that sunny morning in March 2017. There just weren’t any ‘new’ ones to be seen.

A sea of small yellow blooms, perhaps 100,000 across the extensive meadow. You who do what I do know how your eyes must constantly scan, scan the meadow flowers that grown no tighter than you ankles.

What am I thinking, that whole time. I’m asking G-d to please not let me be ‘skunked.’ Please enable me. Allow to to go home and share exciting butterfly views.

That was about when this coupled pairs of Lesser Fiery Coppers caught my eye. Lycaena thersamon. They, almost frozen in place, barely moving over perhaps 15 or 20 minutes. Me? I shot, shot, shot, shot. Sun to my back, moving slowly to find good angles, Pop pop pop!

I was ecstatic. Not that I know that Chaucer never visited the slopes of Mt. Hermon, as mentioned in the Bible, but if he did he’d Love these beautiful winged beauties.

Shooting methodically some 40 or so exposures of film, I thought how much I’d like to score a usable image, and one day share it with Cathy, Roger, Virginia, Angela, Marcie, Kelly, Deepthi, Peggy, Patti, Jim, Beth, Mimi, Susan, Mary, Sylbie, Phil, Leslie, Sandra, Linda, Nancy, Barbara Ann, Dave and you.

Jeff, seeking to please, in the upper, Upper Golan, 3 miles from the barbaric war raging  in Syria.


Israel Shoots Down Syrian Warplane

Mt. Hermon, Israel photographed by Jeff Zablow from Qedesh trail, Israel

Some of us go beyond, way beyond to find and photograph . . . butterflies. Ian is currently abroad, doing just that.

Me? Two years ago I was standing right at the base of this photo, trying to score this shot. Was in a village in the upper Galilee, and we are looking to the northeast. That is Mt. Hermon, snow covered that March morning.

This morning, USA time, the Israeli IDF (Israeli Defense Forces’ IAF) intercepted and shot down a Syrian fighter jet that flew into Israel. On the north face of Mt. Hermon, Syria is at war with its own “rebels.” It’s more complicated than even that, for the Syrian Army has Iranian regulars, Hezbollah, Russians, North Koreans, Pakistanis and more fighting with them. Who live on the face and base of this Mt. Hermon? Israelis in bucolic little villages, with one or two small cities widely separated.

In 2008 I was there on that 7,000 foot high Mount Hermon, photographing very, very rare butterflies.

Butterflies and air battles? Not a wholesome mix. No?

Funny. I so often see TV reports with crowds of people yellling for “Peace.” Tsk! that they are too Pollyana to understand how to achieve that of which they yell for.