Flowers of the Holy Land (Shmuel Browns)
The Dead Sea and Judean desert are just a half hour drive down the hill from Jerusalem. This is the lowest place on earth, 409 meters below sea level, an area bordered by mountains on both sides in a desert with running water and in one area geothermal springs. I drove down this week to enjoy the hot springs and float in the mineral-rich cool sea. I can’t remember a time when i’ve seen the hills so green with so many wildflowers blooming.
In 1994 a small area in the southern part of the Hula Valley, in the area that once served as the transition between the original Lake Hula and the surrounding swamps was reflooded to create Agamon HaHula (אגמון החולה, literally: “Little Hula Lake”). It has an irregular shape, covering an area of 1 km². Several smaller islands were created in the middle of the lake to provide protected nesting sites for birds. At least 120 species of birds have been recorded in or around the lake including large flocks of migratory pelicans, storks, cormorants, cranes, and other birds en route between Europe and Africa that spend days to weeks in the vicinity of Agamon HaHula. Also, new nesting colonies of various species such as herons and plovers have been established. As well, water buffalo and donkeys have been introduced and a small furry rodent called a nutria (also called a coypu), which was brought to Israel from South America for its fur, has made its home here.
Judean Palm. The Judean palm was endemic to Israel. It is "palm tree" is referred to in the Bible and Koran. It also appears in Roman writing, referring to its medicinal properties, and is pictured on various coins. This would imply as well that the lulav or palm frond used for the Four Species (Arba’at HaMinim) on the festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles) would be the branches of the Judean palm. Looking at the barren landscape of the Judean desert it is hard to imagine this area covered by palm forests.