When you hire me as your guide I can take you places and show you things you probably won’t find on your own. Out of Jerusalem along highway 375 is the shell of a small stone building with a sand floor.
The site is from the Byzantine period, the ruins of a monastery with a mosaic floor including an inscription in Greek dated to 563CE. All you have to do is sweep aside the sand (put there to protect the mosaic).
Unfortunately, because the location is accessible somebody took advantage of this and two days ago destroyed the mosaic. According to the report in YNet Israel Antiquities Authority staff collected 23 bags full of the scattered stone cubes (tesserae) from the mosaic. I had even driven by the site on two different days last week on my way to photograph a field covered with thousands of red poppies and had thought to stop and take photographs but didn’t.
These photographs are from a few years ago and I post them here so that you can see what was destroyed. It is terrible when something like this happens.
Khirbet Hanut is not far from Khirbet Midras where the stunning mosaics uncovered in a Byzantine church were vandalized just over a year ago. I posted photographs of those mosaics in my article Khirbet Midras Mosaics.
From mid-February the country is covered with a mantle of wildflowers. Though it may vary from year to year, this is when
“the winter is past, the rain is over and gone, the wildflowers appear on the earth…” Song of Songs.
Tradition marks the beginning of spring in Israel with the flowering of the almond tree (shkedia in Hebrew) at Tu B’Shvat. One of the first flowers to bloom is the red anemone (anemone coronaria from Greek Άνεμος ‘wind’, in Hebrew kalaniot), a perennial in the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family. Don’t confuse the anemone with red poppies (of the genera Papaver) that bloom later in the season
- anemone has a variable number of petals but never less than 5; poppy has 4 petals
- anemone floral bud is cupped by 3 dissected leaflets that remains; poppy has 2 that drop away
On a tour of the Golan last week we saw red anemones growing on the hill as we walked down into the wadi to Breikhat Meshushim (Hexagonal Pool).
From there we continued north on the Golan to Saar Falls where I found this field of lupines with a view of Nimrod fortress in the background. The legume seeds of the lupine were popular with the Romans who spread the plant’s cultivation throughout the Roman Empire. Today there are 2 lupins that are indigenous to Israel, the blue Lupinus pilosus and white-grey Lupinus palaestinus. Lupins can fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia via a rhizobium-root nodule symbiosis, fertilizing the soil for other plants. This adaption allows lupins to grow in poor quality soil and in fact, improve soil quality so that other plants can grow.
On the same trip I came across red tulips (Tulipa montana) a member of the lily family growing on the hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee above Ein Gev.