Ask any rabbi or an ordinary Israeli and many will tell you that rain is directly connected to the spiritual realm. When in some countries you curse when it rains, in Israel and the Middle East heavy rains indicate that the heavens are opening up and prayers are being answered. Rains started again today further extending record rains, the likes of what haven’t been seen in 20 years.
Records were already broken in December when Israel received more than 150% of the rain it can expect on average for an entire winter season. Winter rains in Israel usually start around the holiday of Succot (Festival of the Booths), sometime in October and usually end in time for Pessach known by most people as Passover.
What the rains mean is that the national worry, the amount of rain the Kinneret or Sea of Galilee is up once again; underground aquifers are getting replenished, overwintering ponds seasonal in nature are teaming with life, and flowers are blooming everywhere, including the desert which is exploding in green.
It’s hard to imagine Israel, known in pictures as a desert Mediterranean climate exploding in colors. But that’s what is happening now. Another little known secret is that Israel also has a mushroom collecting season; the mushrooms are cropping up in forests everywhere thanks to the damp and rainy weather. Locals are loving the Ben Shemen Forest halfway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, about 20 minutes each way, as a popular weekend spot for hiking and mushroom hunting with the kids. With flights to Israel at the lowest prices now in any season pretty much, it’s a perfect time to travel to travel to beat the ridiculous heat of the summer.
If you are thinking about planning an escape with your whole family, the winter rains bring out the best in everyone. Cafes are still open, parks abound in cities and in nature for little and big kids, and as a country attuned to family life, there are plenty of seasonal things to do with kids and families, including hikes to see all the pretty flowers in bloom.
Note to tourists: most of the flowers in Israel’s parks are protected, so it’s better to look, not pick. Same with mushrooms: since there is only a new culture to go out mushroom hunting, only travel with and sample with an experienced guide. So many mushrooms like chanterelles have poisonous and similar looking cousins, so always ask before eating.
Bon voyage. And enjoy your winter travels.