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The yearly pilgrimage to Cyclamen mountain

Every year TONS of Israelis make the trek to this hill top to look at the flowering cyclamens
The news from Israel is often so depressing. Everybody always hears about the kidnappings, and stabbings and bombs exploding. People who live outside of Israel probably think that this place is a constant war zone...
We do however also have a rich culture, an exciting beach life, nice restaurants and coffee shops and some awesome museums. And of course, we have amazing wildflowers.

And what is even more interesting is that the tough, often Uzzi-toting and sometimes extraordinary rude Israelis have a particular fondness for wildflower watching..!!

Some more 'flower pilgrims'
Yup, that it right. Every spring, extremely short-lived as it is, you will find masses of Israelis on the back roads, invading the countryside to go and look at flowers. And yes, they JUST look at the flowers. Nobody picks them.They will drag grannies and grandpas with walkers,  screaming toddlers, surly teenagers, boyfriends and girlfriends and even a bemused Phillippine care-giver into the hills to appreciate the beauty of the fields. Some will take photos and many others will have their wildflower books handy (and of course there is an app also now) so that they can identify the various flora they come across. Okay, maaaaybe not EVERY single person in this country is a wildflower freak but quite a lot of them are (such as myself :). )  I drank 110% of this Kool Aide and have even written an ode to the smell of the wild flowers and ten tips about how to photograph wildflowers.
These wildflowers really are really quite beautiful and it is no surprise that they get their well-deserved attention but I am always surprised at the large number of fellow Israelis who feel the same.

The cyclamen flowers like to grow on rocky ground in the shade of pine trees

So I did a bit of research and a LOT of looking at and photographing and I have reached these conclusions about why wildflower-hunting is so popular in Israel:
  1. There are a large variety of these awesome wildflowers. Botanists have identified close to 2, 800 different types of plants in Israel. 150 of them are only found in Israel. In comparison England, which is six times the size of Israel, there are only 1,750 different types of plants.  (Short version: There are lots to see)
  2. A very successful wildflower protection campaign was launched in the 1960s to stem the flow of wildflowers enthusiasts who nearly picked many wild flowers to extinction. Azaria Alon, known as the father of Israeli environmentalism, together with other naturalists pushed the government to forbid the picking of wildflowers. They formed SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) and ran a very successful education campaign aimed at children. Slowly the children taught their parents that they are not allowed to pick flowers. (Short version: Everyone knows that the flowers are special and should be protected)
  3. The spring season is very short here in Israel. If you take your time, you can easily miss the flowering of the wild flowers. All too quickly the first warm winds of the summer arrives to dry out any green living thing until the next year. This ‘rarity’’ makes the flowers even more worthy of your time to seek out and appreciate. (Short version: If there is not a lot of something, everybody wants it)
  4. And last but probably the most important:The beauty of the flowers reminds us that even though life is often very difficult in Israel, there is still breath-taking beauty. Sometimes it is the small things such as chilling out to see the wildflowers that makes life a little bit easier to live.
And that I think is something that everybody on this planet has in common, not just the Israelis.

Definitely worth the trip!

Marina Shemesh
Zichron Yaakov, March 2016


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