by Tova Horwitz
Between February and March, there is an explosion of miraculous color all over Israel, from north צָפוֹן to south דָרוֹם. Spring אביב has arrived, and with it the wildflowers פרחי בר including the כלנית anemone, iris איריס, cyclamen רקפת, narcissus נרקיס, lupine תורמוס, and daisy חִנָנִית which are in full magical bloom. The wildflowers and fruit tree blossoms like the almond שקד and cherry דוּבדְבָן trees are indeed a delicious glorious visual treat, with many Israelis of all ages embarking outdoors to the country’s parks and countryside to glimpse a view and snap a photo of the seasonal blooms.
While many people take this yearly ritual – going out to see the fields of red anemones in southern israel or the purple Irises of the Gilboa – as a given, it was not too long ago that Israel’s wildflowers were actually on the brink of extinction. In the early years of the state up until legislation was first initiated in 1964, Israel’s wildflowers (which number an incredible approximately 2,500 species!) were widely picked. People plucked the flowers both for personal pleasure to add beauty to their homes and gardens as well as for market where they were sold on the streets.
Fortunately, thanks to the combination of timely legislation forbidding both the picking and selling of wildflowers as well as a simply genius marketing campaign by Israel’s environmental agencies, the flowers were ultimately saved. The campaign was wildly successful even though it lacked funding, because the gorgeous images of the flowers spread across educational pamphlets and posters spoke for themselves. The campaign was aimed at the country’s youth, kids in kindergartens and schools, who would sternly tell their oblivious parents that picking flowers was a big no-no. With the slogan צא לנוף אך אל קטוף “go out to the landscape, but do not pick” (in Hebrew it rhymes – “Tzeh lanof akh al tiktof”), the campaign succeeded in changing the public’s behavior and mindset from that of picking the flowers to that of enjoying the flowers’ beauty in their natural landscape.
Fortunately for us today, the wildflowers were saved! No worries – if you seek to bring the wild beauty into your home you can do so without causing any harm to the wildflowers. Take a trip to Kedma, a south-central village about an hour drive from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, where over Passover פסח for a nominal price you can pick your own flowers from over 100 varieties of buttercups נוריות. Create your own unique bouquet to take home and add a gorgeous splash of color to your home – perfect for the holiday חג!