My earliest association to the Hula Valley was hearing about its swamps, the rampant malaria that incubated there, and the heroic efforts to drain the swamps in the 1950’s. What I didn’t know was that the plan to turn that swamp-land into farm-land turned out to be a nightmare for the farmers, as that spot was a migration point for birds. The area has since been further developed to allow for both agriculture as well as bird migration.
The Hula Valley was at the top of my to-do list for this trip to Israel. Bird-watchers from around the world flock (pun intended) there in the fall and winter to experience the miraculous wonder of bird migration in this Syrian-African Rift Valley, one of the largest and most important flyways in the world, the meeting point between three continents. Over 500 million birds make their way from Europe and Asia to Africa via Israel in the autumn and head back in the spring.
We saw cormorants and egrets, shelducks, and spur-winged lapwings and many other unidentified birds, as well as water buffalo and beaver-like creatures called nutria, but most of all (because most of the other birds had already migrated), we saw CRANES — thousands of cranes! Over 100,000 fly over the Hula Valley each year, and about 15,000 of them winter there in January and February. In fact, we heard all 15,000 cranes before we saw them — a big ruckus of a cacophony, growing louder and louder as we got closer and closer. In two weeks, they will all take wing and fly away. I’m sorry we will miss witnessing that leg of their journey.
The trail around the property and the agamon (little lake) was 6-7 miles, including all the look-outs. Rather than rent golfcarts, bikes, or tandems, we used our own two legs, and it was wondrous! (By the way, future tourists: There is a second part to the Hula Valley, a more touristy nature preserve, that we did not visit. We visited the Agamon Hula.)