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It’s all about the beauty.

IMG_00004053Israelis love this country sometimes.  They rave about it sometimes, how beautiful it all is, and I always agree, of course, because it would be rude to say anything else.

But seriously – I’m coming from Canada, one of the pristine natural wonders of the world, the Great Lakes, the Rocky Mountains, and you’re telling me some hills, some valleys, and the puddle you call the Kinneret are beautiful??

Sorry, Israel.  On a global scale… not really.

From the air, on a satellite picture, compared to our neighbours here in the middle east, sure.  But close up?  Close up is where you notice the discarded Bamba wrappers, and the preponderance of brown and the tiny scale of things and, I admit, sometimes feel a bit underwhelmed.

But today was not that day.  Today – well, I have a thing about spring; always have, and today was spring.  Spring has become even more ecstatic for me since I took up gardening nearly ten years ago.

Today, I would have to say, was probably the country, and its countryside, at its finest.  Naomi Rivka and I took a trip out to Kibbutz Lavi in the Lower Galil (aka Galilee), and found beauty, beauty everywhere.  Not natural beauty – very much cultivated, in gardens throughout the kibbutz.

Everything that could bloom was blooming!

Rakafot (cyclamen), which look so much sturdier and more robust in nature (or semi-nature) than their potbound cousins in Canada:


Citrus (not blooming, but bright and colourful nonetheless):


Took this picture of bindweed, my mother’s nemesis.  Even in Israel, it’s taking over wherever it can.


Even thistles – which really are very striking, architectural plants… as long as you don’t stand too close.


After I took that first thistle pic, I found this entire freestanding BUSH o’ thistles.  Eeyore would be proud.


Sweet pea everywhere!  Don’t be tricked by the name.  Lathyrus odoratus may or may not be a pea relative (I forget), but it is easily distinguishable by its flattish twining stems AND is somewhat poisonous.


These things are EVERYWHERE!  A label in the garden labels it as salvia blepharophylla, but I really don’t think so, since those are red.


Aha… a quick web search tags it as the wild blue lupin, an Israeli native who blooms from February till May.  Here’s a whole bunch of them, growing together:


I love a garden that is well-organized, with tags… even if the tags are sometimes wrong.  These were in a communal garden on the kibbutz:IMG_00004065IMG_00004066

(ie chives)


(lemon geranium)

We even saw some papyrus growing in a fountain in the middle of the garden!  Naomi Rivka was impressed with its height – it looks smaller in books.


This one’s an unknown… the plant itself looks like dianthus, or pinks, but the stems are taller and the (5-petalled) flowers lack the distinctive “pinking” around the edges.  Anyone want to help me out?

IMG_00004063      image image

Hate to sound like a travel brochure, but it’s true - Kibbutz Lavi boasts an extraordinary rose garden.  I don’t love roses, but did want to see it in bloom.  We were looking and looking for itn when I suddenly realized I smelled roses and I turned, and there it was, right beside me.


In Toronto, my mother planted one of these, a crocosmia plant, a few years ago… and it has done okay.  But it hasn’t truly BLOOMED the way this guy has.


Really makes you recognize what a struggle it is to garden with plants that are beautiful but so far removed from their natural climate (in this case, it comes from South Africa, but close enough).

Poppies were everywhere.  I was impressed by this one standing on its own…


… until I noticed this bed full of them (along with some equally beautiful little girls!)…

IMG_00004079 IMG_00004080

My friend Rachel insisted on showing me around, including a quick stop at this private garden festooned with dwarves and other knick-knacks.  The plants are mainly succulents, which are not my favourites, but a garden that would probably normally strike me as slightly horried actually charmed the socks off me in my happy beauty mood today.

IMG_00004101  IMG_00004103 

No idea what this orange thing is; I was just trying to take a picture of this beautiful blue bird sitting on it.


And speaking of birds… I admit, I naturally just tune out Birds of Paradise.  But Rachel pointed these ones out, and for once, I was actually impressed.  And here’s that blue bird again, too!

IMG_00004107 IMG_00004104

Unknown reddish-pinkish thing.  This one may actually be a salvia; the greyish leaves and flowering pattern makes me think it is, but if anyone wants to help me out, I’d appreciate it!


This was in another private garden – sweet peas and kumquats, all wrapped up in each other. 


I’ve always considered kumquats pretty useless, as citrus go, but they sure are pretty, and the combination of the orange and purple was the last thing we saw as we left the kibbutz.

Oops… forgot to mention:  the kibbutz has a wondeful giant chess set!


And that we had a great lunch in the communal dining room (we were allowed to eat there free as guests of a kibbutz member)?


(I was sitting innocently eating my lunch when Rachel asked, “Doesn’t this lunch deserve a mention on your blog?”  So I leapt up to take pictures just to appease her.)

If you like some of this flowery nature stuff, it’s worth mentioning that Kibbutz Lavi has a fantastic, beautiful, kosher luxury hotel which is available for Shabbat, chagim or any old time (they have a much better class of dining facility, I’m told – but even so, our “residents’” lunch was delicious!). 

I’d love to be able to stay there… by which I mean, afford it.  But we do hope to go back to the kibbutz for another Shabbos sometime soon; there are more humble guest accomodations available free for friends and relatives of kibbutzniks. 

The kibbutz itself is conveniently close to Teveria (about a 10-minute drive), but due to the weirdnesses of Israeli geography, experiences a breezy Galil climate rather than Teveria’s stifling summer heat.

So I guess it’s not so nice to admit that I’m not blown away by the natural beauty here.  It’s not that I don’t love Israel, but if what I want is pine trees, snow-capped mountains, cool, fresh lakes, and bounding herds of moose, I’d have stayed in Canada. 

I may not be here for the beauty, but today was still a nice chance to discover plenty of man-made beauty, or at least, “man-curated” beauty in one of my favourite parts of the country.


  1. Too bad you didn't enlarge the photos.

  2. Tzivia: Are you planning to write a review of Baruch Libinsky's book on personal finance in Israel? Inquiring minds would love to read more!

  3. Having lived in western Canada (BC) and hiked and climbed and skied all over, I understand your comparison. So let me tell you the difference (influenced by a famous anecdote about Rav Kook in Switzerland): in the spring, all the flowering and blooming in Israel is singing out "Pesah is coming, Pesah is coming. We are the fulfillment of Hashem's promise when He took the Jews out of Egypt." And that can only be heard by the hearing ear in Israel. Only the hills and flora and fauna in Israel say that. The mountains of BC and AB never speak quite like that. They say other things; but not that.

  4. @Batya: You do get a slightly bigger version when you click.
    @Tom: I chickened out and didn't finish it.
    @Mordechai: That is beautiful! You are very right, of course. I have so many reasons to love this land... it's just that when people point and say how lovely something is, I sometimes have to force it a little. :-)

    p.s. My first husband was an Albertan and in his world, you weren't even ALLOWED to call something a mountain unless it was a Rocky, or maybe Everest.

    1. Oh, that's too bad. I was hoping to read more without paying =)

      But otherwise, I am considering aliyah from Toronto, and I am curious to read more about what financial expectations a new oleh should have.

  5. Hi Tzivia, Akiva and young'ns,

    That gorgeous blue bird is Israel's hummingbird - the Palestine Sunbird -

    1. Not really a hummingbird. Called Tzufit in Hebrew.

    2. Nice to know the Hebrew name also. Thanks, both!!!

  6. Thanks, Alan!
    @Tom, his book isn't so much about financial expectations, in any event. I think most olim who come with realistic ideas about what they're going to make and how they are going to live are not disappointed. It's often said that people live more modestly here. On the one hand, lots of stuff is more expensive here so you'll probably have to scale back your lifestyle a little. On the other hand, there's less of the keeping-up-with that goes on in North America so you don't so much have to compete. Hang out NbN's yahoo and facebook groups and you'll begin to get a good sense of it.

  7. This post is included in Shiloh Musings: Havel Megillah Havelim, The Poorhim Edition.  Please read all the other posts, comment and share thanks.

    I hope you'll take an active role in Havel Havelim and the other Jewish blog carnivals.

    1. Thanks, Batya! I know that means hosting again sometime soon... I'm working up the energy. We're getting there, I promise...


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