Syria, Butterflies and 2008

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

These cattle are doing what they used to do, for perhaps hundreds of years. Their Arab owners lived down the mountain, in Syria. Why they chose to climb 7,000 feet to the peak of Mt. Hermon, still puzzles me. When Eran Banker guided me across the top of this peak, at the northeastern edge of Israel’s Golan region, I was surprised to see . . . cattle. We came up on a ski lift, then hiked across the mountain top. The cattle climbed the mountain. City boy remains baffled by this.

I was up there to find as many of the very rare butterflies of Mt. Hermon as I could. Some of those species can be found nowhere else in the world, only on this mountain top. In one case, as of 2 years ago or so, my images were the only ones of a species of butterfly, on the entire internet.

It was June 16th, and very, very hot on the mountain. Eran, a bull of a man, carried many liters of water for us. No water means, they see your car down at the lift base, at the end of the day, and when they search for you up there, are forced to contact your family to . . . . It’s the Middle East, and mountain-top or not, it’s arid, drier than dry. How do the cattle endure it up there, I have zero idea.

Cringe at this. This 2017, the background of Syria is a killing field. I expect that the villages there are either leveled or full of murderous ISIL or Rebels or Hezbollah or Hamas or Iranian Regulars or Russian ‘advisors’ or Assad’s Army and/or all of them together. The farmers and ordinary folk who lived down there, as you look at those 80 miles of land, dead or fled.

The Middle East has long, long been torn by violence. It came in fits and waves. This is such a time, and when I fly there on March 28th, you need not worry for Jeff, for the reason that those barbarians do not cross that border, is a very strong, very well armed and very disciplined Israeli military. And, after many years, Israel’s Big Buddy, the USA has reaffirmed that in the ‘schoolyard’ of the Middle East, Israel has a very capable Big Buddy, who would prefer that no schoolyard bullies show their face.


Seeking and Finding Rare Israeli Yellows

Anthocharis Damones (Protected), photographed by Jeff Zablow on Qadesh trail, Israel

Multiple goals for my March 2015 visit to Israel. Visit my infant grandsons, savor the seas of wildflowers that usually follow wet winters, and introduce myself to rare, endangered Middle Eastern butterflies. All  goals were achieved, I am happy to share. Add to those, rental car good (Hertz), good stays in field houses (SPNI) and lots of friendly Israelis.

Shooting down the trail in northernmost Upper Galilee region, this Anthocharis Damone Syra took this nectar break, and I was right there to record the moment. Resplendent in vivid yellow, orange and black, he sipped long enough for me to shoot and shoot many photographs. His lower wing surface can also be seen, with its marbled green and yellow hindwing. Their flight time is short, they are protected because they are found in limited habitat, at the upper reaches of Israel. If their range extends across the border to Lebanon, we will not know, for which of you will travel through Southern Lebanon, currently generously sprinkled with terrorist cells?

Before you move on, take another moment and look at the pinkish bloom to the right, nice, no?

The ID of the flowers, that will require some feedback from friends there.