Spring is just around the corner

Ramat Menashe, where nature can do its own thing, attracts nature lovers from far and wide.

ramat menashe 298.88 (photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
ramat menashe 298.88
(photo credit: Lydia Aisenberg)
In a blaze of color, thousands of tall, plump purple lupins sway gently to and fro as a light breeze wafts across the Ramat Menashe plateau. A slight lurch to the left followed by a similar list to the right gives the impression of a slow, deep, purple waltz of nature, wafting thigh-high across this section of the hills. The lupins, spread like a wonderful spring quilt over a large portion of valley bordered by the approach road to Kibbutz Ramot Menashe, stand proud, adherents to the safety-in-numbers theory.
  • Paradise in Emek Hefer Dotted within the expansive carpets of purple, scores of bright red tulips reach above the lush green undergrowth, some standing majestically alone and others in pairs and threesomes, seemingly aloof among the multitude of smaller, less impressive wild flower varieties on the periphery of this verdant, almost overcrowded valley. Here and there small groups of pinky white cyclamen gather in small clumps, giving the impression they are the gossipers among the colorful icons of spring, standing to the side, heads high and not missing a thing. Just a short drive away (even shorter as the pollen flies), across the road from Kibbutz Galed is a cyclamen colony known as Givat HaRakafot (Cyclamen Hill), where it is literally standing-room-only for the cyclamens between the tall pine trees planted almost 60 years ago in this neck of the Ramat Menashe woods. It may be that those down the road in predominantly Lupinville are not gossipers after all, but a breakaway group from the main colony up on the hill - youngsters who decided to start a cyclamen community of their own away from the pine-protected pioneers of their clan, in much the same way as their kibbutz neighbors across the road did in the not-so-distant past. Bees are busy at work, laboring at a dizzy pace as they buzz from one tulip - its petals spread to the limit - to another, packing in a brisk day's work in the pollen sharing business. In the warm, embracing sunshine, a few cotton wool clouds float high above like spectators in the ticket-less aerial grandstands, while we watch the free extravaganza at ground level. This area has been reserved for nature to do its own thing in a protected environment, and the annual wild flower show brings nature lovers from far and wide, who soak in the sight of abundant flowers, verdant fields stretching between the lower hills of the Menashe range, and generous hilltop forests. Within a few brief spring weeks, the flowers will be gone for another year. This year there seem to be fewer flowers than in previous years, but the number of humans coming to see them has grown, prompting one visitor to quip about a human for each flower. Even though scores of adults, youths and children are carefully walking the marked pathways joining the purple patches, the quiet is almost deafening considering the racket groups of Israelis normally make. Truly awesome are the wonders of nature! At the side of the road, a number of prominent signs contain photographs that help to identify the species of wild flowers that can be spotted just meters away. Parents of young children stand by the signs, pointing across the valley below as they explain to their offspring what they are about to see, before marching off in single file through the open gate, cameras at the ready. Ten minutes later, they can be spotted arranging their three children on their tummies, so that tulips seem to be growing out of either side of their heads. Everybody is smiling, and the children wallow in the sunshine and attention they are attracting. On such a clear day, one can see the Mediterranean coastline from this point on the Menashe plateau. Zichron Ya'akov perched on the lower mountain range, and her Rothschild Zionist sister village of Bat Shlomo atop a hill in the middle of the sweeping valley below seem like models, not for real. With a slight swivel of the head, the Druse villages of Daliat el-Carmel and Ussifiya come into view on the Carmel mountain range running parallel to the Menashe hills. The stone Mukhrakah monastery stands out like a white beacon on the highest peak of the Carmel, and a tiny shift of the head further to the right brings the Haifa bay area into view. As the afternoon begins to draw to an end, the sun reflects on the sea in the distance. The coastline takes on an orange yellow aura as the sun slowly disappears into the sea and dusk falls. The tulips fold up their petals, one covering the other, as their visitors fold up their sandwich boxes and cameras, and head for home. Another sign - not colorful like those of the flora world, rather a photograph of a serious looking lady with smiling eyes - is attached to the nature reserve's perimeter fence. The lady's name is Berta and she belongs to another time, but her granddaughter Idit Pelech has taken her name, image and style, turning the former shoemaker's workshop in Kibbutz Ramot Menashe into "a sweet place on the mountain," as the sign says. Flowers are very much part of the d cor at Berta's, at the end of the several kilometer-long approach road to the kibbutz, where coffee and cake was the perfect way to round off the day in the lap of nature on the Menashe plateau.