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Jul 2004 Journal

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Letter from Israel

Spring is beautiful anywhere in the world, but in Israel it has a special poignancy. You know that the lush foliage and colourful flowers are going to be short-lived, whether because of the heat of the impending summer or the Hamsin heat-wave that afflicts Israel in its desperately short spring and autumn.

But while it lasts, spring in the Judaean Hills is particularly lovely. There are folk who traipse to the north of the country, the Golan Heights - further than one's own back yard, metaphorically speaking - to find the glories of spring in Israel.

My daily drive to work gives me the option of taking the highway or meandering through the Jerusalem Forest. I generally prefer the latter, whatever the season, even though it makes my journey longer. I keep my eyes on the road, of course, but I can still see clumps of wild cyclamen in fashionable shades of pink and mauve peeping from behind rocks. The wild almond trees, though, are the first to blossom, and it is heartening to see their white branches gleaming amidst the bare winter trees. Later on purple spikes of wild lupin can be seen amid the grey-green wild grass, offset by yellow mimosa bushes.

Other trees produce green shoots, but the Judas Tree stands apart, ablaze with red-mauve blossoms. Its Hebrew name, Glory of the Forest, is far more apt than the English one that evokes the crucifixion (Judas is supposed to have hanged himself from its branches).

Broom and gorse also abound beside the road in sunbursts of yellow, alongside scarlet poppies and other flowers whose names I do not know, but who saturate my morning commute with glorious colour.
Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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