the romantic trail

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caution, frog crossing

Yesterday, the third day of the first heat wave of spring, Chana and I drove north to the ‘source of the Yarkon’, a national park neighboring the city of Rosh Ha’ayin, called Afek in distant history. It wasn’t all that hot in Jerusalem. But we knew that most places outside of the city might be too hot for a day trip, and this seemed to us a fine place for adventure. We packed a picnic, took cameras and maps, a folding chair for me, and we were on our way.

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Usually I like to take the back roads and the slow roads to all destinations. But since we knew we would have a lot to see once we got there, we made an exception this time, and took Highway 6, arriving there in just a little more than an hour. Though there were a few groups of children around… and in one area we did encounter the grating sound of an enthusiastic nature counselor urging some of those children on to a demonstration of physical prowess, with the help of some electronic amplifying equipment, most of the park was peaceful and calm. We chose to follow the example of the ducks on the pond, and avoid the youthful noise, taking comfort in the natural beauty of old trees and calm waters. It was a beautiful day.

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The sun wasn’t always out. At times, cloud banks covered the sky. But the weather was in movement, and there were ample opportunities to capture the full color spectrum when the sun did show itself. The natural scene was rich and inviting. Trees supplied ample shade. And there were a number of adults enjoying the advantages of the park.

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There is a small Baptist village just outside the park, and there was a couple, two middle aged Baptists dressed in comfortable walking attire, that we kept running into, though we traversed the park from one end to the other. Along the way we discovered the ‘romantic trail’, adorned as it was with a magnificent array of beautiful flowers.

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the two Baptists

From prehistoric times, the land of Israel served as a pathway between Africa and Europe. And from earliest history the city of Rosh Ha’Ayin, which translates into English as ‘the fountainhead’, was a focal point of that passageway.

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The city is mentioned in the old testament and in Egyptian documents from eighteen centuries before the common era. Seemingly, it became an important city in historic times because of the springs found there, which provide plentiful water. The Yarkon river which flows to Tel Aviv and through it, originates there. And the national park we visited is located right next to the city.

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I have to admit that the ducks were very cautious and we never did get close enough to get a good picture. Nor did we find a single frog willing to pose for the camera. But we did hear them when we approached the larger bodies of water. I have a very beautiful frog portrait from a previous visit to the same park, but decided to share with you only those shots captured yesterday. And it was only after returning to Jerusalem, that I realized that I hadn’t gotten a single duck photo, and felt a certain measure of sorrow. Because ducks are rather rare in our country. I should have tried harder.

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Still, there was a bit of comfort knowing that I had captured my dear friend Chana, actually hugging a tree, evidence that even here, in the backward middle east, one can find enlightened people who know how to express their love for nature in the most up to date manner.

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There was no need for my folding chair. We found plenty of picnic tables and benches to sit upon, and our picnic was all the more delicious, in the shade of an old eucalyptus tree, having the local birds serenade us as we ate both humus and soft cheese with pita bread and tasty spices, and quenched our thirst with local beer.

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We will be celebrating Pentecost this coming Sunday, and I imagine that the park will be filled to overflowing with visitors on the holiday. How lucky we were to visit just before the big rush, enjoying the serenity of this natural treasure at its best. And how good it was to conclude such a pleasurable adventure, knowing that we were about to return to our beloved home town, Jerusalem.

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not a duck, but it was a pleasure meeting this bird…

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60 responses to “the romantic trail

  1. What a lovely, peaceful post, Shimon. I enjoyed the pictures so much (and didn’t miss the ducks, since they’re fairly common here). That magenta cascade of blooms is breathtaking. And the serenity of the park’s visitors is palpable. I feel very refreshed, having shared this break vicariously. Thank you for the words and images. A blessed Pentecost to you!

    • Thank you very much Kitty. Yes, I know… I saw a lot of ducks in Europe, and in the US too… but here they are quite rare though we do have a very wide variety of birds here. And aside from the fact that they’re very beautiful at times, I love watching them swim…

  2. Whoops; sorry, my friend. I meant to say, Blessed Shabbat, and my sleepless mind substituted Pentecost. Just have a lovely week’s end, and know I hold your peace in my heart.

    • Thanks for your blessing, dear Kitty. Yes It was a beautiful Sabbath, and this year Pentecost came right after the Sabbath so it was sort of a two day holiday.

  3. Great post and marvellous images Shimon.

  4. ….of course the Baptists are wearing Tilly hats (smile)

  5. There is nothing like a stroll through a park on a hot day. It looks and sounds very rewarding. Happy Pentecost – we are celebrating it too.

    • Afterwards, I heard it got quite crowded on the holiday. I guess it was good luck to visit before hand. Best wishes on your holiday too. Wonder if it came out on the same day. We do have differences in calendar though…

  6. What a lovely day….From the picture of Chana, I can see that you had a great time. Janet. xx

    • Yes, it was a really fine time. As happens every time I venture out of Jerusalem, I think I’ve got to do that more… but somehow when I’m here, it is hard to leave. Best to you, Janet. xxx

  7. A beautiful place indeed and I love that egret on your last photo. I didn’t know that ducks are rare in your part of the world; I just assumed that ducks lived everywhere and they are so common in Europe.
    I love your friend Chana hugging that tree as I also think of myself as a treehugger. Say hello to her from me, please. 🙂

    • How good of you to give me the English name for that bird, Fatima. I wasn’t sure about that. But she is sweet. About treehugging. It seems to me we hear a lot more about that than we actually see. It was fun for me to see it in action.

  8. What lovely photos. No duck pictures, this time, means you must go back again. 🙂

  9. Like you, I would have chosen to follow the rock pools and nature. Best to leave the kids space for their own activities. You got a webbed footed friend photo; love the waterfall of purple flora, the hopping frog sign is a very strong one. I don’t think you could miss it. The water pools look peaceful and healthy. Your picnic had elements of my today’s lunch in it! Communing with nature can be very fulfilling. It does sound as if you and Chana had a splendid day out.

    I was reading about Pentecost yesterday, in a selected body of short essays written by a Rabbi Hugo Gryn, in a book called Three Minutes Of Hope. It is edited by his daughter Naomi. He was a remarkable man in my opinion. Gryn was a survivor of Auschwitz/Birkenau. His father died very shortly after the camp was liberated. He used to read his ‘thoughts for the day which were ‘God slot’ material on various radio stations. I can hear his rich vocal tones as I read. I digress.

    • I hadn’t hear about Rabbi Gryn, so I went searching because of your comment. Since I know you’ve studied religion, menhir, I’m sure you’ll understand my meaning when I say that I believe every people has found its own path to spiritual awareness, and that god talks to those who care to listen. Of course, under the great blanket of Christianity, we find a lot of different approaches, including those who believe that they are a continuation of the children of Israel. Of course, this has also happened to the Jewish people in the diaspora, and I’m sure there is much to be learned from the many different variations.

  10. Thank you for sharing your pleasant trail walk with us, Mr. Shimon. Such a beautiful capture of Chana. Love how she expresses her love for nature. 🙂

    • Yes, so do I, Amy. Sometimes nature seems so great and powerful, we don’t really know how to show our appreciation. Thanks for the comment.

  11. Thanks for taking us on a trip to the park with you 🙂 Chana actually hugging a tree, and the snowy egret hunting are especially nice photos. Be well, J&A

    • Thanks so much J&A. That egret really caught my attention, and reminded me a bit of my cat Nechama, the way she managed to walk stairs, and had a sort of bashful curiosity.

  12. Lovely photos, wonderful descriptions of a delightful day. Thank you.

  13. Nice visit. Do you have a pic of a cross section of a Eucalyptus Tree? I’m curious…is it hard wood or soft? It’s unusual to see “the Baptists” written as such. I guess that’s how they identified themselves. Something like that would be strange here. For example, unless they were dressed in the strict black and white clothing of…?orthodox? Jews, I would not point them out as “the Jews” without some reason. Wish you could experience my place. I live in a paradise. Yes, I’d like to see your frogs.

    • No, I’m sorry but I don’t have a cross section of a Eucalyptus Tree just yet. But now that you’ve asked, I will look for such a photo. Your mention of the fact that you live in paradise caused me to go back and look at some pictures you sent of your home, and I quite agree with you. As to pointing out Jews, They have been treated so badly in most of the west, that they have taken great pains to ‘pass’, and I imagine that most folks in their vicinity know of their reluctance to be identified as such. That’s one of the reasons that I have such a fondness for the ‘black and white’ ones. What bravery… Thanks for your comment, Bob.

  14. What a beautiful and relaxing place to spend the day. Interesting history of the area as well.

    • Strangely enough, though this is one of those places that has a very ancient history, I’m sorry to say, that most of the residents in the area are rather unaware of it. I suppose one has to develop a taste for history. Thanks, Bev.

  15. What a beautiful walk this was, Shimon. Thank you so much for allowing me to come along. You and Chana are wonderful company.

  16. If I could not enjoy a walk with you in person, then this is a wonderful alternative which I will accept with grace (and occasionally petulance). What a lovely day – a perfect one to share with one who is wise enough to hug a tree and a bird self-possessed enough to permit a picture.

    • Yes, that’s one of the frustrations of the internet. We get so much… but it is our nature to always want a bit more. And I too feel that way. Meeting people on the internet, I often have the desire to meet with them face to face, to see their place with my own eyes… and then, am brought back to the reality… that they are half a world away. Thank you so much, Mimi, for your kind comment.

  17. Another very enjoyable post Shimon! Always a pleasure to catch up with you.

    • Very glad you liked it, Chillbrook. I’ve been following your photography, as you know, and it’s gotten very dramatic lately… some powerful scenes.

  18. It was, indeed, a very enjoyable post….thank you for the narrative and taking us along with you.

    • I’m constantly amazed, Scott, at the great beauty that is found right under our noses… waiting for us to discover it… Thanks for the comment.

  19. Happy Pentecost! What a wonderful day, I really enjoyed seeing all these beautiful scenes….I’m with you, who can resist old trees, peace and quiet, and such lovely pools! The purple flowers cascading down are gorgeous! Frogs…..they seem to sense a camera coming a mile away, mine do disappearing acts too. What a shame that you have so few ducks, I shall dispatch the next set of ducklings immediately, they would enjoy that environment!
    How wonderful to see Chana, so enlightened in the backward Middle East..you DO make me laugh! I shall hug a tree tomorrow in her honour! A marvelous post, as usual!xxx

    • Oh, do send the ducklings, Dina. I get such a kick out of them, sitting on the water and gently moving with no sign of effort… But it’s only rarely I see them. Glad you enjoyed the post, and that it gave you a laugh. Right now it’s really gotten hot outside of Jerusalem. Most of the country is between 42 and 47 degrees. But it is quite nice here in Jerusalem… the advantage of living on a mountain.

  20. P.s LOVED the white egret! xxx

  21. Thank you for another great post and beautiful photos of my “local” park :-). I don’t think I’ve ever seen Afek so empty and so peaceful. I really ought to make more of an effort to go there “off-season”.

    I hope you had a lovely Shavuot.

    • You’re very luck to have such a park in your neighborhood. It was such a joy to spend some time there, Anne. Hoping you had a very nice holiday.

  22. Shimon, your words and photographs weaved into a lovely visit to share, thank you. The peace could be felt…. hugs X

    • Very glad you enjoyed the post, Jane. It was truly a beautiful day. Now I imagine it’s very hot in your neighborhood. You should take a day off here in Jerusalem.

      • I will, thank you Shimon. I am not sure what has happened to our Summer, but we have rain, dark skies and it is chilly! I hope you have a lovely day. Hugs x

        • Well, I suppose it’s hard for me to imagine the weather in far away places… I do hope it warms up a bit… but not too much. The middle road is always the best. And you’re always welcome to visit here, Jane. xx

  23. We all learn the lesson, if we’re either lucky or attentive: a park, the countryside, museums and other desirable destinations are best enjoyed on those “off days.” Fighting for a parking spot, or never being able to take a photograph iwthout capturing a clutch of strangers isn’t the best experience.

    You would enjoy my ducks. It’s the hatching season here, and we’re awash in mamas and babies swimming around. They’re not at all shy, these mallards. The learn early that humans might mean bread, and they always are willing to come by to check.

    I was so surprised to see the mention of Pentecost. I had to consult the venerable Google, and now I know about Shavu’ot. One of the customs that was mentioned was the reading of the Book of Ruth. The article said the reason for the tradition isn’t necessarily clear, but I still enjoyed the thought. Ruth is one of my favorite books.

    I spend most of my days at work in the company of egrets and other water birds. They’re delightful companions — it’s nice to see you have them, too.
    And of course the first thing your frog sign reminded me of was our humorous saying about having to kiss a lot of frogs before we find a prince!

    • You’re so right, Linda. When my children were little, I used to tell them, If you hear there’s something wonderful going on, and everyone’s going there… stop and think about it Consider that the crowd is usually irrational. And I do like the mallards, They are beautiful to look at. I hope they have all the humans well trained.

      And yes, Shavuoth is a very special holiday. I don’t always talk about our religious life, because I fear it might get boring to others… and after a while I might start repeating myself. But this is a holiday where most of the young folk stay up all night studying our holy books… trying to make up for the fact that when the ten commandments were given to the people of Israel… at the foot of Mt Sinai, we slept late in the morning, and didn’t show much interest.

      As for frogs, I have a great love for frogs and butterflies… cause they remind us that it is possible to have a second incarnation… actually, I think we humans can have quite a few incarnations… it’s just a matter of giving up what we’re used to, and trying harder to truly live our lives… Thanks so much for your comment.

  24. What a lovely, peaceful day shared amidst such beauty – how it refreshes the soul!

  25. A beautiful place indeed for a peaceful day. Wonderful … and thanks for sharing some of the beauty at this national park.

  26. Lovely… yes, very peaceful looking.

  27. Birdsong is the best music for the park. All electronic devices should be banned. 🙂

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