A Fascinating and special visit

I had read something about this Botanical Gardens online but never met anyone who had actually been there. It was only a 20 minute drive away so when the sun came out we decided it looked like a cool place to visit. Called the Emek Hefer Ornamental Gardens, I would say this is a bit of a misnomer in English because “ornamental” suggests something more tame and cultivated. These gardens were created in 1949 to make a large collection and storage area for every kind of tree and plant that might be suitable to grow in the country. At that time the pioneers and early settlers coming to the Holy Land knew very little about the soil and climate of this area, and did not really know which plants would succeed here and which were unsuitable. So they made this place as a sort of lab to research which trees and flowers would thrive here. On arrival at the gardens we got a free introduction to the place with Tomer, one of the volunteers, who gave us a short history and then presented us with a large folder of information, and told us to go around on our own. We had his phone number if we should need any other help. The place is pretty large and divided into different areas according to different varieties of plant- succulents, deciduous etc, but there are also areas like little allotments where local students grow seedlings and herbs. Also many workshops on plant identification and growing techniques are conducted here.

Entry to the place is free of charge.

The place was beautiful and very varied. We loved the massive cacti and the extremely old trees too.

Some of the trees were very ancient. Here is the most ancient tree in the country,Prosopis Alba , the Argentine Mesquite

Argentine Mesquite

We meandered around the 50 dunams of the park, enjoying the solitude and quiet, and saw only a few other visitors. I think we will be back there soon, especially as D is thinking about volunteering there.

I can’t identify all the flowers and plants, maybe you can.

I think it’s a highly recommended visit if you are in the area. The gardens are open every day from 9-13 and on Saturdays till 14.00 and entrance and parking are free of charge.

It’s red down south!

I had previously heard ( before this strange epidemic) about the wonderful blossoming of the red anemones in the south of the country known locally as Adom Darom ( Red in the South) . Since we have never gone to see it before, and have just come out of lockdown ( 8th February) we thought we would check it out. I came across several possible locations, all around what is locally known as the Gaza envelope, a part of the country which for obvious reasons I have never visited before. We picked a place called Shokeda Forest,which turned out to be wondrously beautiful and green after the rains, and the trip was quite an eye opener. We finished off the day with a gorgeous sunset on the beach at Palmachim, right next to the Kibbutz,followed by home made scones and rhubarb jam at our son’s house. A perfect day indeed.

Obligatory pose with anemones

And so to Shokeda , about 90 minutes drive from home in the Sharon. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the road open, it being a Thursday after the rush hour. We were accompanied by our faithful sandwiches and apples. On arriving at the small road leading in to the forest we were greeted by the chimes of two ice cream vans, a fact I stored in my memory for later. The forest was full of people but not so crowded that you could not get away and find serenity. The further we walked the fewer people we saw, just an occasional group of walkers of all ages or a lone runner. There were trails marked out for runners taking part in the Adom Darom activities. The red flowers were scattered everywhere and the trail in the forest was pleasant. We even saw a flock of sheep grazing.

After some time we decided to turn back as we had no clue if it was a circular route or not. So we retraced our steps to the car, got stuck into our sandwiches and finished off with the ice cream from the truck. After relaxing on our folding chairs under a tree for a while we set off for the beach at Palmachim so as to arrive before sunset (it being winter this would be at 17.25) On the way we saw the concrete shelters next to bus stops built to protect people from rocket attacks from Gaza.

Palmachim belongs to the parks authority so we didn’t have to pay to enter, and the car park gave us a generous reduction because of our Pass, so we were happy. The beach, despite this being winter, was quite full of people, some even braving the water, and loads of pro photographers set up to catch the sunset.

So admittedly we did get stuck in a horrendous traffic jam on the way back but all in all it really was a fabulous day. We shall see how the weather holds out, as we still have lots of hiking destinations to check out. Stay tuned!