Israelis love nothing more then to troll for flowers in the ersatz springtime. We say ersatz because while some believe that April showers bring Mayflowers, in these parts it’s more like February thunderstorms bringing March cyclamens. And so, the best flowers are to be found in late winter and early springtime walks, through the parks, fields and forests around Israel.
We’re recommending one flower walk in particular, at Ya’ar HaMiginim, the Defenders’ Forest, adjacent to the town of Karmei Yosef, where we did some other wandering. Planted by Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael (the Israeli partner to the Jewish National Fund), this is a forest for fallen defenders of Israel, but has expanded to include memorials to Holocaust and terror victims and others who have died tragically and too young. Extending from Road 44 to the corners of the Karmei Yosef and Bekoa communities, the glades of pine, cypress, olive and carob trees cover acres of land and during Israel’s green winter, are dotted with spots of color from the red anemones and pink cyclamen that adorn the ground.
Cyclamen are Israel’s designated national flower – including representation in the China Olympics opening ceremony, which pitted cyclamen against anemones in a nationwide vote — but both cyclamen and anemones are treated like Israel’s homecoming king and queen, given their status as the country’s fave wildflowers. The anemone, called a calanit in Hebrew, is also known as the windflower because it was once thought that wind is what helps it bloom. And during the British Mandate in Palestine, British soldiers were nicknamed calaniot for their red berets.
Picking flowers was a popular activity at one time in the early years of the state, so much so that by the 1960s, anemones and cyclamen were on the brink of being termed extinct. At the time, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and the Nature Reserves Authority launched a campaign to reverse the trend and now, some 40 years later, every school kid knows not to pick any flowers found in nature, including those pesky yellow weeds that show up everywhere.
And so, when you head out to places like the Defenders’ Forest, you find anemones and cyclamen growing in profusion. This is a walk that’s easy to do by foot or in the car, pulling off on the side of the road when you find a place where you want to cop a squat. In fact, Achbar HaIr, the weekend guide published by newspaper Ha’aretz, recommends this particular forest for springtime picnics. So take a picnic and your camera, and wear closed shoes, because the ground can be damp during this time of year. You might want to take some time to appreciate the scenery before you get to eat, as flower appreciation is what this trek is all about.
Not to worry, though, we have a great plan for a pre-packed picnic from Shvil Izim, a nearby goat farm. In the meantime, enjoy tiptoeing through the so-called tulips, and finding the right angle to appreciate your cluster of wildflowers. It’s all about appreciating nature.