Photographing a Rare Butterfly on Israel’s Highest Mountaintop

Rare Copper Butterfly photographed by Jeff Zablow at Mt. Hermon, Israel

Mt. Hermon is the HolyLand’s highest mountain top. We were there to find and photograph the rare butterflies that live there, and in some cases, nowhere else. On that desolate peak, we found a good number of them. All flew at high speed, so capturing images wasn’t easy. Add to that the searing heat that June day, well into the 90’s Fahrenheit, the enormity of the top of that mountain, and, after Eran, my guide, found that unexploded land mine (from the 1967 War?), the edginess of following butterflies off-trail on Mt. Hermon.,

I’ve studied Dubi  Benyamini’s A Field Guide To The Butterflies of Israel carefully, still not able to make an identification of this Fritillary butterfly seen there. Hopefully, Shalev, Oz or Rachael will aid us in its ID. Melitaea Persia montium?

Visiting Mt. Hermon in the HolyLand, via that cable car climb to its 7,000 found peak? Unforgettable.


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?