A hummingbird recently paid a visit to my garden while I was enjoying a coffee outside. I wanted this photo to be the one on the back cover of the Summer issue, but, taken with my phone, it just wasn’t a high-enough resolution. So, I went back to a photo I took last spring for that year’s Summer issue but didn’t use because it felt too cheerful at that point in the pandemic. Now, however, with vaccinations well underway and restrictions soon to start easing in the province, a little colour doesn’t seem out of place.
Spring. Every year, it returns like a miracle and Israel is carpeted with wildflowers. There are nearly 3,000 types of wild plants in this tiny land, a wonderful profusion, among the most abundant on earth. Israel boasts a variety of different ecological systems – deserts and marshes, high mountains, dense forests and open fields, with wildflowers to suit each habitat.
Wildflowers are protected in Israel and nature reserves prohibit the picking of any flowers, even the most common, which helps them to propagate over wider areas. In turn, this brings the sunbirds, which feast on their nectar.
The Song of Songs, which we read every Passover, is a most beautiful love poem. King Solomon wrote it as a dialogue between a young shepherd and his beloved: “Rise up, my love, my fair one and come away / For lo, the winter is past / The rain is over and gone / The flowers appear on the earth / The time of singing is come / And the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.”
The flowers he refers to, nitzanim, still carpet the fields – shiny red poppies flaunting scarlet beauty in the grass.
In Jerusalem Forest, delicate cyclamens bloom in the crevices between the rocks. Called Solomon’s Crown (in Hebrew), they lift their pink, cream or lilac heads on slender stalks. Clumps of wild violets, the dew shimmering like diamonds, add their touch of magic.
Israel’s rainy season, mid-October to late March, leaves a bequest of green. Sharon Valley is dotted with tulips and narcissus. “I am the rose of Sharon, a lily of the valleys” – it is believed that King Solomon was referring to the magnificent black tulips of the Galilee.
In spring, even the weeds in Israel are pretty – the milk vetch, which is a thistle, adds purple blooms to the roadside. The rockrose is abundant in forest glades and the orange ranunculus bursts into bloom. Like its velvety cousin, the anemone, it is a protected wildflower in Israel.
The perfume of daffodils – which suffused the winter – still wafts on the breeze and the white, cream, yellow and blue noses of lupins are pushing through the soil. Oleanders are in bud, growing wild by the banks of the River Jordan and near streams in Galilee, promising a burst of summer beauty. And the blue statica reminds us that we, too, have a Mediterranean coast like the famed Riviera. This lovely sea plant flowers from mid-spring to mid-summer, when its corolla drops off and only the sepal remains.
Who says Israel has almost no natural resources? When you see the splendour in the grass of the land’s spring glory, the wildflowers glowing like jewels, you’ll echo the poet’s words: “Had I but two loaves of bread / I would sell one of them / And buy white hyacinths to feed my soul.”
Dvora Waysman is a Jerusalem-based author. She has written 14 books, including The Pomegranate Pendant, which was made into a movie, and her latest novella, Searching for Sarah. She can be contacted at [email protected] or through her blog dvorawaysman.com.