Pink Butterfly Orchid. Guess Where?

Pink Butterfly Orchid (2 stalks), photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Meron, Upper Galilee, Israel

It’s February 2016, and winter here is coming to a predictable end. I’ve been keeping my eyes open lately, searching for more than butterflies. Exploring forests, bogs, swamps, fens and more, I’ve been bumping into new ‘friends.’ Orchids.

Orchids demurely stand, sometimes in full view, and often this hiding in plain view leaves them unnoticed. Imagine that. Fugitives from justice often use this same tactic.

So there I was, on a trail bordered on both sides by lush new growth, most sporting blooms of a palette of pastels. This pair of orchid flower stalks were just inches from the trail edge. Delicate, beautiful and determined. Audrey Hepburn-ish, and equally beautiful.

The media works to convince you that this land is a land of desolation and strife. Hooey. We are at the base of Mt. Meron, far, far to the north of Israel’s Upper Galilee region, a handful of miles from poor, terrorist ridden Lebanon.

Pink Butterfly Orchid, and I ask what you think of this delicate and sturdy at the same time orchid, growing inches from the passing paws of sometimes jackals, antelope, wild boar, wolves, and more?


Hi! There. Manishma?

Tortoise, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Nahal Dishon National Park, Upper Galilee, Israel

Vipers are what I had in a corner of the back of my mind. Israel is in the Middle East. Fact is, many vipers are native to this part of the world. March 2016 and here I am (Lucky Boy! for sure) in the Upper Galilee, very close to the border of that now bedraggled land, Lebanon. Windy roads rising and descending this hilly region separate villages that are distant from one another. Lots of wildlife here, and . . . butterflies. Beautiful butterflies.

I’ve followed an ancient cattle trail, and as usual I’ve made no less than 1 million steps off trail, following that butterfly, or investigating this wildflower/orchid. The kid in the candy shop, me. Always there is that thought, keep aware, for ‘many vipers are native’ to this very place. Thankfully, I have never seen one, since I began these field excursions in 2008.

Never seen one ranks near the top of my Thank Y-u List, never seen one and never met one.

Happily, enthusiastically! I met this Pookie! that morning. “Manishma!” I greeted her (?). Translation? “How are you?” A Middle Eastern tortoise. 9:40 A.M. and the Sun was beginning to bake all, and I nearly stepped on it as it was ascending a gentle slope. I shot away, and watched as it worked its way under vegetation. This was to be its cover from the hot sun, until sunset, I suppose.

A chance encounter, the only one I had for those 4+ hours, with the exception of cattle, which you’ve read here, can turn up, anywhere. She didn’t respond to my query, but we both had a break in our mornings. Not a viper for me, but a very comely tortoise.



Eye Contact with Bessie?

Chocolate Brown Cow, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Nahal Dishon National Park, Upper Galilee, Israel

She and her calf weren’t there when I followed a primitive trail deeper into a corner of Nahal Dishon Park, Upper Galilee region of Israel. I’ve been sharing images of my February to March 2016 views, and some of what I share is the product of mixed weather, sometimes thick clouds, sometimes rain. It’s the end of their winter, and the acceptable amount of rain has enriched this verdant region with blankets of wildflowers, Lupines for example were all over, and sweet purple blush.

The drive from my SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) field house quarters to this park was up, up,  up and up, around sharp curves, challenging the boy who is a wee bit uncomfortable with heights.

Back to Miss Bessie. The boy hailing from Brooklyn works his way back to where the trail (mind you not a developed trail – now I know who made this trail over eons of time) began. Then I see her, all 800? or 900? pounds of her. She is just off the trail. I reconnoiter the situation, and spot more sweet brown just a few feet from her. A calf! I slow my pace, and continue on the trail. toward them. What would Virginia or Louise or Dave or Phil, all of you who grew up on farms, do? Mr. Concrete, brick  and asphalt is once again on a trail, with a very Big Girl, she is watching me like, well a hawk, and . . . she’s got her calf, too.

Less than 2 weeks later, on Mt. Belvoir in the Golan region, I again found myself along on a trail with a huge, very interested cow. That cow never stopped watching me, and then she began moving toward me. I at least had trees between me and her, as you see I had between Bessie and I. I moved out down that Belvoir mountain trail, how do you say? Likity split.

Bessie let me be. There was no owner to be seen. Cattle roam here in the Upper Galilee. They roam in the Golan region. I have no idea how their owners keep track of them. Really close to Hot borders with Lebanon and Syria, armored vehicles (AKA tanks) are common here, and they too must be aware of the presence of cattle, here and there.

A share then of the unexpected. City boy cum butterfly photographer, and 900 pound powerhouses, alone together, all parties docile?


Were You On This Luxury Bus?

Tour Bus entering Capernum National Park, photographed by Jeff Zablow at Lake Kinneret, Golan Heights, Israel

You ask, Did I enjoy the Golan region? Yes, it was well, spectacular. The wildlife? Exotic, though I never did see the native wolves that have made a strong comeback, following their reintroduction. Conservation here has reached that pivotal point, with dairy farmers now experiencing occasional losses of cattle to these very same wolves.

I stayed in the SPNI Golan field houses, and roamed the Golan region, visiting remote (very) sites, searching for butterflies and wildflowers. Israel in the Spring, the Middle East, in bloom.

There it was, I passed it more than once. Capernum. The same Capernum many of you have heard about, all of your lives.

I thought about many of you, thought how much you would enjoy being there, at the northern tip of Lake Kinneret, where He grew up and began His teaching. How you’d Love Jerusalem and all of the other real-time sites you learned about in Sunday school.

So here, where the Golan region meets the Galilee, I positioned myself at the entrance to now Capernum Natonal Park, and shot one of the many tour buses, entering, full of excited visitors from your town, your state, and from all of the other countries of the world.

And I wondered, were You on this bus? Were you waving to me?