I am intrigued by the desert areas of Israel and find them fascinating places to photograph – I’d be happy to take you to explore and photograph. Rainy and cold all day yesterday in Jerusalem so I drove down to the western Negev to see the kalaniot (Anemone coronaria) in bloom one more time.
The technical details – the photo was taken with a Nikon 5300 digital SLR camera yesterday just before sunset (ISO 1600, 32mm, F9 at 1/250 sec). Clicking on the image will display it larger.
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In 1947 Tuvia Kushnir, a brilliant young man, was a student at the Hebrew University on Mount Scopus. He was studying and researching the plants of Palestine (under the British mandate, before the State of Israel was declared). Tuvia was one of the first iris researchers in Palestine and identified an iris that bears his name Iris tuvia (also known as the King Uzziae iris).
And Tuvia also identified a kind of crocus that grows only in the desert that was named after him, Colchicum tuviae.
But 1947-1948 was a time when a botanist was also a soldier. On January 15th, 1948 with Gush Etzion just south of Jerusalem under blockade by Arab forces Tuvia was part of a group of Haganah soldiers under the command of Danny Mass given the task of carrying supplies to the defenders on the 4 kibbutzim in the Gush. They set out at 11pm, later than planned, on foot from Har Tuv, each man carrying 100 pounds of supplies on his back. They had to make a detour past the British police station so as not to be detected (as it was a capital offense for Jews to carry arms) and keep their distance from hostile Arab villages.
Three soldiers turned back when a soldier twisted his ankle and was unable to continue leaving 35 – the Lamed-Heh (ל’’ה, two Hebrew letters that have the value 35). With the breaking of dawn the group was still about 5 km from Kfar Etzion.
Battle site of Lamed-Heh
They were discovered near the Arab village of Tsurif, the alarm was raised and hundreds of Arabs from the neighboring villages attacked the convoy. The battle went on all day, the Israeli soldiers fought until they had no more ammunition. All 35 were killed, including Tuvia.
In memory of the Lamed-Heh: Daniel Mass Yisrael Aloni Chaim Engel Binyamin Bugoslavsky Yehuda Bitensky Oded Ben-Yamin Benzion Ben-Meir Yaakov Ben-Attar Yosef Baruch Eitan Gaon Sabo Goland Yitzhak Ginzburg Yitzhak Halevi Eliyahu Hershkovitz Yitzhak Zvuloni David Tish Alexander Yehuda Cohen Yaakov Cohen Yehiel Kelev Yaakov Caspi Alexander Avraham Lustig Yonah Levin Eliyahu Mizrahi Amnon Michaeli Shaul Pinueli Moshe Avigdor Perlstein Binyamin Parsitz Baruch Pat David Sabarna David Zwebner Yaakov Kotick Yosef Kofler Tuvia Kushnir Daniel Reich Yaakov Shmueli יהי זכרם ברוך May their memories be a blessing.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die… Ecclesiastes 3
In Israel the wildflowers follow a pattern. After the Jewish New Year, before the winter rains the squill and Sternbergia flower, then the Steven’s Meadow saffron, the Winter crocus followed by the kalaniot (anemones), the almond trees blossoming, narcissus, iris, lupine, wild tulips, poppies and many others. The red anemone (anemone coronaria from Greek Άνεμος ‘wind’, in Hebrew kalaniot) is a perennial in the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family.
The season for anemones is January-February and one place to find them is in the south, the Western Negev near Kibbutz Ruhama and Shukeda. In fact, seeing the anemones in bloom has become so popular that there is a festival, called Adom Darom (two Hebrew words meaning the Red South) to celebrate the spectacle. This week we drove down there for a photo shoot and though it is still a little early we found some areas covered with anemones. It was a lovely day.
These red anemones may be the most common ones seen in Israel but last year while touring up on the Golan I came across anemones in other colors under the old oak trees at Hurshat Tal.
Flowers are visual, there is color and texture, some have fragrance but the kalaniot also have a poem written by Natan Alterman in 1945, music composed by Moshe Wilensky, sung by legendary Israeli singer Shoshana (in Hebrew a rose) Damari.
The evening comes, the sunset on the hill burns I am dreaming and my eyes see: To the valley a small girl descends and it blazes with a fire of anemones.
. . .
Yes, generations come and pass without end but each generation has an anemone in a tune.
Early this morning we drove out of Jerusalem past Ein Karem and Sataf and followed the Soreq valley, the historical route of the train that joined Jaffa to Jerusalem. Suddenly the gauge on the car signaled that the temperature outside was 4ºC. As we looked to the right the valley was filled with mist. We pulled off the highway, parked and climbed the hill to get some elevation and take photographs.
Then we descended into the valley and mist and got some nice closeups using a macro lens.
Couldn’t find any spiders but saw their gossamer webs left behind.
We did a nice hike in Nahal Katlav, from the derelict Bar Giora/Dayr-al-Shaykh train station, and I figured that the time was right to find crocus pushing up through the earth and we did.
If you do a tour with me in the area of the Judean desert I can show you an interesting flowering plant called the Sodom Apple (Calotropis procera).
The plant occurs throughout the tropical belt and is native to North Africa,Western andSouth Asia, and as far as Indochina and the West Indies.
The Jewish Roman historian describes the plant “which fruits have a color as if they were fit to be eaten, but if you pluck them with your hands, they dissolve into smoke and ashes.” The “apple”, a green soft globe, is filled mostly with air and some fine fibers and seeds. The plant is also mentioned in the Mishna but though the fibers can be used as wicks, they are not permissible for use on the Sabbath. The flesh contains a toxic milky sap that is extremely bitter and contains a complex mix of chemicals, some of which are steroidal heart poisons known as “cardiac aglycones”.