Category Archives: Hiking

Nahal Prat or Wadi Qelt

Nahal Prat (nahal: נחל=stream bed) or Wadi Qelt (wadi: وادي‎=valley) flows from west to east across the northern Judean Desert, from near Jerusalem to Jericho, a distance of 28 km, from 770 meters above sea level to where it flows into the Jordan River at 395 m below sea level. Hiking trails follow the stream bed, which has water all year around fed by three springs, En Prat, En Mabu’a and En Qelt. My blog post about Wadi Qelt and the St. George Monastery is one of my most popular so I want to tell you about another destination in the area, the Nahal Prat nature reserve. Take highway 1 from Jerusalem towards the Dead Sea and then a left onto road 437 towards Ramallah. Turn right to the Jewish settlement of Anatot (the Levite city mentioned in Jeremiah 1:1), now called Almon (from Joshua 21:18).

Tomb ibn Taymiyya

Ruins of the Jewish Iron age village, time of Kings is at the turning, with the 13th century Arab tomb of Sheikh Ibn Taymiyya (תָקִי אל-דין אבו אל-עבאס אחמד בן עבד אל-חלים בן עבד אל סָלאם בן תימיה אל-חָרַאנִי) on the hill. Drive through Almon to the entrance of the reserve and descend the winding road to a parking lot.

Ein Prat

I took these photographs of En Prat, the valley formed by the steep limestone cliffs and the pools within the reserve.

Fallen Rocks Ein Prat

The remnants of settlements, monasteries and palaces are scattered along the stream, as are signs of stream-based cultivation. A number of aqueducts were found along the stream, the earliest of which dates to the Hasmonean period, used to channel water to the winter palaces near Jericho. These channels continued to be used through the Roman, Byzantine and early Arab periods. This enabled the growing of fruit trees like fig, pomegranate, date and citrus.

Ruins of a later water-operated flour mill can be seen on the ascent to the Faran Monastery, originally founded by the monk Haritoun in the 3rd century, believed to be the first monastery in the Judean Desert. This area, in the desert and not far from the holy city of Jerusalem, with many natural caves, springs and abandoned Second Temple period fortresses, attracted monks seeking seclusion.

Today, for the same reasons, the area is a popular recreation site to hike, picnic and swim in the natural pools.

Pine Ein Prat

Tamat Pool

 

Autumn on Mount Hermon

Last week, on a crisp autumn day up on the Golan, I had the opportunity to visit the Hermon and take these photos.

Hermon Autumn foliage

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.

Trees and Rocks Hermon

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.

Clouds over Hermon

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.

Photographing Wildlife at Ein Gedi

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.

Ibex at Ein Gedi

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.

Rock Hyrax

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.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways

I read photographer Jeff Sinon’s post Photography 101: Finding the Best Shot in which he discusses whether to shoot a scene in landscape (horizontally) or portrait (vertically). I tend to use many of my photographs of sites in Israel on my website and I find that horizontal photos fit better on my web page. But there are subjects where you pretty much have to shoot in portrait, such as cascading water. Jeff posed an interesting challenge:

The next time you’re out taking a picture, capture the scene horizontally and vertically. Then, ask yourself: does one shot work better than the other? Do you recognize why?

I was driving down to the Negev, about a 2½ hour drive from Jerusalem, to go stargazing in Makhtesh Ramon on Thursday night. I planned an early morning hike, from nearby Sde Boker to Ein Akev, a spring and pool in the desert.

Divshon Ascent vertSo with Jeff’s challenge in mind I took the same shot, two ways – this is part of the series, Through My Lens. All the photographs were taken with a Nikon D90 DSLR camera with 18-200mm zoom lens.

The two photographs displayed here were taken at the beginning of the hike, on the climb up the Divshon Ascent with a view of the Zin valley below. The technical details – ISO 800, the vertical photo 82mm, F/11, 1/640; the horizontal one 26mm, F/13, 1/800.

 

Divshon Ascent horz

Afterwards we hiked into the nature reserve at Ein Avdat. There is a 250-year-old Atlantic Terebinth (Pistachio Atlantica) tree at the entrance, with gnarled roots holding it firmly in the rocky ground – another shot, two ways.

 

Terebinth Ein Avdat vert

Terebinth Ein Avdat horz

Probably the classic photo at Ein Avdat is a scene of the white limestone cliffs and blue sky reflected in the pools of water – a great shot, two ways.

Ein Avdat reflection vert

Ein Avdat reflection horz

I’d love to hear your comments, what you think about each pair of photographs. Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing a print of one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

Flora of Israel – Broomrape

Broomrape

Broomrape (Cistanche tubulosa) is a flowering plant that grows in arid areas in Israel – I’ve seen them in the Large Makhtesh, Judean desert and while hiking the Israel trail north of Eilat. They are recognizable by a 30cm spike of densely packed yellow flowers. When they are not flowering, no part of the plant is visible above ground. There are no leaves, in fact, the plant contains no chlorophyll and so cannot do photosynthesis. The broomrape is a parasitic plant, one that derives some or all of its sustenance from another plant. Parasitic plants have a modified root, the haustorium, that penetrates the host plant. Amazingly about 4100 species in about 19 families of flowering plants like this are known.  On my tours, I always try to point out some interesting flower, plant or tree.


 

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Photo of the Week – Red Canyon Colors and Textures

When driving down to Eilat you can turn off of highway <90> and drive along highway <12> that runs along the border with Egypt. There’s a great family hike on the way, watch for Wadi Shani and hike the Red Canyon. This photo was taken at the entrance to the canyon. Clicking on the image will display it larger. Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

Red Canyon

The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon D90 (digital SLR) camera with a Nikkor 18-70mm lens in February (ISO 400, 18mm, F10 at 1/160 sec).

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

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Photo of the Week – Ibex

When hiking in the Ein Gedi nature reserve keep your eyes open for hyrax, Tristram grackle and ibex. As I was coming out of the reserve a group of some forty ibex went by. Their color blends into the cliff side but I caught this one as it climbed over the hill.

Ibex

The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon DSLR camera (ISO 400, 200mm, F11 at 1/500 sec).

Please share this post with your friends by clicking on the icons at the end of this message.

Photographs on this website are © Shmuel Browns (unless marked otherwise) – if you are interested in purchasing one of my photos or using one of my photos for your own project please contact me.

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