From the KKL-JNF overnight campsite we walk to Route no. 98, turn eastwards and continue for about 300 meters until we come to a little cluster of eucalyptus trees beside a small cattle pen. Nearby is the green sign that announces our arrival at the Nahal Meitzar Nature Reserve. Before we make our way down into the gully, it’s worth taking a look around. The hillsides are clad in a magnificent woodland of Tabor oaks (Quercus ithaburensis), a species of tree well suited to the hot summers and rock configuration of this part of the country. Another important constituent of the woodland is the Mount Atlas mastic tree (Pistacia atlantica), which prefers precipitous landscapes, as water is more available among the rocks.
The Nahal Meitzar Nature Reserve is home to the wild almond tree (Amygdalus korschinskii), a characteristic feature of the borders of the Mediterranean region that can be recognized by the spiky ends of its branches and its comparatively pale leaves. Like the Tabor oak, it sheds its leaves in winter. Another small deciduous tree, the spiny hawthorn (Crataegus azarolus), which produces tasty round fruit in springtime, can be identified by its prickly branches and deeply lobed leaves. These two local residents are joined by the snowdrop bush (Styrax officinalis), an elegant tree characterized by soft leaves with pale undersides.
Along the way we shall also encounter the lotus jujube (Ziziphus lotus), a prickly bush with slender white branches that zig-zag slightly. Its fruit is not edible, unlike that of its larger relative the Christ-thorn jujube (Ziziphus spina-christi). Desert broom (Retama raetam) also grows here, and can be identified by its long scepter-like branches that burst into profuse, brilliant white, scented bloom in February, after having remained bare for most of the rest of the year. As its name implies, this bush is characteristic of desert regions, including Israel and the Sahara. It has also spread to the southern Golan Heights via the Jordan Valley.