Just months ago I stood there, very taken with this fine example of an Eastern Strawberry Tree, the host plant for the Two-tailed Pasha butterfly. That trail was near the peak of Mt. Meron, at the tipped tippy top of Israel, the Upper Galillee region. The tree, well you see it here, OMG! beautiful. The butterflies? Saw several, had to be there before 6:50 AM, but they refused to allow me within 30′ of them, each seen on the trail floor.
Why this post today? From this trail you look down upon Israel’s border with Lebanon, and well beyond that, into Lebanon. Hours ago, an IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) patrol was ambushed on a road along the border, with two IDF soldiers killed and several wounded. Hezbollah terrorists killing Israelis, on the land given to the Hebrews by . . . . Within sight of this trail.
I have a daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons living in Israel.
Oh, how I hope that some of you support this tiny nation, the refuge of the bony skeletons dragged from their European homes and thrown into the ovens.
How did this image get away with it? I’ve dug into my Neumade metal slide cabinets (a gift from a friend some years ago!) who knows how many times, and this June 16th 2008 image somehow managed to again and again give me the slip. What we have here is a large Pieridae butterfly that flies from May to August. In Israel, it is only found in one place. Mount Hermon. If it is found on the other side of the mountain, in Syria, your search for Gonepteryx ff. would be a brief one. Within minutes, pick-up trucks, full of heavily armed men would speed up to you (not me, because I survived Brooklyn, and I ‘ain’t’ looking to end it there). They would yell at you, maybe push you, hard, and then you would be rushed away, to who knows what fate. Why were you there? Who are you? Why do you photograph their positions? Passport! Are you CIA, NSA, with Assad, Seals, or are you . . . stupid. Let’s say that the quest for butterflies is a very dangerous science in Syria.
She flew at high speed to here and then to there, until she spotted this thistle flowerhead. It must have been irresistible, because then and only then did she allow me to approach within 18″ of her. I cannot be sure of the identity of this thistle. The field guides I own are in Hebrew. Feedback from naturalists in Israel is, regrettably, minimal. Oh well.
So her species is not rare, but is found only on that militarized peak. There is a good chance that I will be photographing in Israel this year, with the anticipation of a family celebration. This time, as in 2012 and 2013, Mt. Hermon is out, IDF only (army). My fervent hope is once again, to photograph the Two-tailed Pasha, Israel’s largest butterfly, and an artist’s palette of a beauty. That is a challenge. In June ’13 I saw 3 of them, and each would not let me get within 30 feet of them. All were on the ground when noticed, all must have been engineered by Grumman, because they swooshed away at incredible speed. I think that I now know the strategy I’ll need. Get there before 6:30 AM and pray alot.