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 called 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?



Israel’s Skittish Long-Tailed Blue Butterflies

Long-Tailed Blue Butterfly at Mt. Hermon, Israel

March 2012 found Mt. Hermon (elevation 7330 ft) in Israel’s Golan covered with snow. So we photographed butterflies in the low lying areas within sight of the peaks.

This Long-Tailed Blue butterfly was photographed in June of 2008, at the top of Mt. Hermon. Lampides boeticus on Mt. Hermon live with little or no contact with humans. This female did allow my approach . . . hunger trumps caution at times.

Access to the mountain top is by chair-lift only, and most visitors are skiers who ski the mountain during winter. Many fewer explore during June.

Mt. Hermon’s butterflies do not stay on the trails, so we followed them, which is how we do what we do . . . until we found . . . a land mine!  That was a game changer.

More soon about Mt. Hermon’s butterflies, many of whom are found only on Mt. Hermon and nowhere else!

Despite the absence of people, the butterflies of Mt. Hermon are the most skittish I have ever approached.