Here are two photographs taken on an early morning hike, from Sde Boker to Ein Akev, a spring and pool in the desert. Both photos are of the flat plateau you reach after climbing the Divshon Ascent. The photographs were taken with a Nikon D90 DSLR camera with 18-200mm zoom lens. In the first photo, there is a lot of foreground, brush, rocks, sand stretching to the distant horizon. In the second, there is little foreground and a lot of sky. The shift in the horizon line creates a dramatically different effect.
Now is when the Common Crane stops over at the Hula Lake in Israel on its migratory path from Europe and Asia (the heart of the breeding population for the species is in Russia) to its wintering sites in northern Africa, the river valleys of Sudan, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Eritrea.
Checking the Agamon Hula page on Facebook they report 35,300 cranes at the park last Wednesday. They spend the night on the lake and in the early morning fly off to forage for food. It is an incredible sight to see thousands of cranes take to the sky.
The Common Crane (Grus grus, also known as the Eurasian Crane) is mainly slate-gray, with black on the forehead and lores with a red cap on the top of the head and white stretching from behind the eyes to the upper back.
Last week, on a crisp autumn day up on the Golan, I had the opportunity to visit the Hermon and take these photos.
Mount Hermon is actually a cluster of mountains extending for about 150 km in a northeast-southwest direction with three distinct summits that straddle the border between Syria and Lebanon. The southern slopes of Mount Hermon extend to the Golan Heights and a peak in this area rising to 2,236 meters is the highest elevation in Israel. The Hermon range covers an area of about 1000 square km, of which about 70 km² are under Israeli control.
As a geological and biogeographical region, the Golan Heights is a basaltic plateau bordered by Mount Hermon in the north, the Yarmouk River in the south, the Sea of Galilee and Hula Valley in the west and the Raqqad Wadi in the east. The western two thirds of this region is currently controlled by Israel, whereas the eastern third is controlled by Syria.
Because of its height the Hermon captures a great deal of precipitation in a very dry area of the world; because of the elevation plants grow and bloom later, in August instead of the spring. One that I saw still blooming under the ski lift was the Lotus Sweetjuice. Water from the snow-covered mountain’s western and southern bases seeps into the rock faults and channels in the Jurassic limestone, feeding springs at the base of the mountain. At the important archaeological sites of Banias and Tel Dan the water forms streams and rivers that merge to become the Jordan River. From the Hermon it’s about a 40 minute drive to these streams, fascinating sites that I can take you to to experience the nature of Israel’s north.
More than a 1000 sinkholes have appeared on the Israeli and Jordanian shoreline of the Dead Sea in the past 15 years as the water level recedes. The first sinkholes appeared in 1980, there were 40 in 1990 and there are some 3000 today. Fresh water from runoff dissolves the salt in the newly uncovered salt-laden earth creating an empty cavern. When the top crust of earth collapses a sinkhole is formed. The holes fill up with water and the naturally occurring minerals create pools of different colors, red, orange, yellow, green and indigo with borders of encrusted salt, incredible to see and photograph. I took these photos along the shore of the Dead Sea over a period of months.
- Mysterious Sinkholes Threaten to Sink the Dead Sea (greenprophet.com)
- The Dead Sea’s Revenge (momentmag.com)
These two wildlife photos were taken on a hike in Nahal Arugot in the Ein Gedi Nature reserve. Nahal David is the more popular, family oriented part of the reserve which makes Arugot great for a more off the beaten track outing, less crowded and great for photographers. If you follow the stream bed to the end of the wild and photogenic canyon you will reach the hidden waterfall.
The ibex (Capra nubiana) is one of 9 species of wild goats (the North American Rocky Mountain goat is in a separate genus, Oreamnos). The ibex is a ruminant, meaning they have four-chambered stomachs and chew their cud so they are kosher, along with addax, antelope, bison, deer, and giraffe. Evidence of the ibex is widely present in the archaeological record, for example, rock drawings, pottery and seals, particularly in the Near East and Mediterranean regions.
The technical details – the above photo of a young ibex was taken with a Nikon D90 digital SLR camera with Nikkor 18-70mm lens at the end of October (ISO 500, 70mm, F9 at 1/125 sec) in Nahal Arugot.
The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis, in Hebrew שפן הסלע) is a medium-sized (~4 kg) terrestrial mammal, superficially resembling a guinea pig with short ears and tail but, in fact, the hyrax is related to the modern-day elephant. The rock hyrax inhabits rock crevices which protect it from predators as written in Psalms 104,18 סלעים מחסה לשפנים, rocks hide the hyrax; it also uses sentries, one or more animals take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of predators. Among at least 21 vocalizations that the hyrax can make, it makes a loud grunting sound while moving its jaws as if chewing which may be the reason that the hyrax is listed in Leviticus 11,5 as a non-kosher animal that chews its cud. Unique to hyraxes is the dorsal gland, which excretes a skunk-like odor used for social communication and territorial marking. Hyraxes typically live in groups of 10–80 animals, and forage as a group. The rock hyrax has incomplete thermoregulation and so can be seen sunning itself on rocks – it spends approximately 95% of its time resting.
There are about 500 species of Passiflora. The Passiflora plant is widespread – nine species are native to the USA, species are found in South America, Eastern and Southern Asia, New Guinea, four or more species in Australia and a single endemic species in New Zealand – it is not native to Israel but grows happily here. This one, Passiflora edulis, is a vine with exotic looking purple and white (with green) flowers that we got from a nursery and planted in our garden in Jerusalem. When first seen in South America by Spanish Christian missionaries in the 17th century it was named passion flower. These clerics saw the parts of the flower as reminiscent of the Passion of Christ which gives it a connection to Israel and Jerusalem, the Via Dolorosa and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher:
- The tendrils are reminiscent of whips used in the flagellation of Christ.
- The ten petals and sepals represent the ten faithful apostles.
- The flower’s radial filaments, which can number more than a hundred and vary from flower to flower, represent the crown of thorns.
- The chalice-shaped ovary with its receptacle represents a hammer or the Holy Grail
- The 3 stigmas represent the 3 nails and the 5 anthers below them the 5 wounds.
This photo appears on a notecard available at my online store, Designed in Israel. Check it out at http://www.cafepress.com/israeldesigned.
So on your next visit or pilgrimage to the Holy Land plan to taste a local passion fruit.