Yehudiya Nature Reserve
Yehudiya Nature Park is one of Israel most popular nature reserves. It has a varied landscape with streams, gorges with high waterfalls, wide canyons, vast woodland, volcanic scenery, and diverse and rich vegetation and wildlife.
The Yehudiya woodland extends over 66 square kilometers and is the third largest forest in Israel’s Mediterranean region. It is one of the few reserves in Israel that is large enough to contain an entire landscape. The trees coverage is relatively sparse and cover only 10% of the woodland.
The rest of the land is covered by dense herbaceous vegetation, growing in the vicinity of the trees, creating a savanna-like landscape. The Mt. Tabor oak (Quercus ithaburensis) is the most prevalent tree in the Yehudiya woodland. It may reach eight meters in height and has a massive trun k. Among the trees that grow in its vicinity are: the Atlantic pistachio (Pistacia Atlantica), the ofiicinal storax (Styrax officinalis), Christ’s thorn jujube (Ziziphus spinachristi), the Judas Tree (Cercis sliquatrum) and the Jujube in September, various species of crocus in October, colchiurn-flowered Saternbergia (Sternbergia colchiciflora) in November, the common narcissus (Narcissus tazetta) in December, and in January, the Persian cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum). The rarest species in the reserve is the Golan iris (Iris hermona) which is endemic and grows only in the central Golan and on the slopes of Mount Hermon. Among the most prevalent and important grazing species are the clovers, alfalfas, oats, and bulbous barley Hordeum bulbosum), rough cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata), wi Id emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccoides) and wild barley (Hordeum spontaneum). The last two are important progenitors of present day species of wheat and barley. The Yehudiya Reserve is also home to a special species of thistle known as the Gamla thistle.
The reserve is home to the mountain gazelle (Gazella gazella), the wiId hoar (Sus scrofa), the wolf (Canis lupus) northern jackal, (Canis aureus) the red fox, (Vulpes vulpes), hyrax (Procavia syriaca), social vole (Microtus socialis), Indian crested porcupine (Hystrix indica), and Cairo spiny mouse (Acomys cahirinus). A few species of raptors live within the reserve’s boundaries, most of which roost and nest in the cliffs of the reserve’s canyons. Among them are some globally endangered species like the Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) Bonelli’s eagle (Hierasetus fasciatus), Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus), and long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus). Other nesting raptors, like the kestrel (Falco tinnuculus), and short-toed eagle (Circaetus gallicus) are more common. A large number of songbird species winter here (during migration periods), or summer and nest in the various reserve habitats.
Despite the efforts of the pervious inhabitants of the Golan beginning in antiquity to remove the stones from the soil, it is still stony and difficult to cultivate. However, it is very rich grazing land. Herding
proved to integrate well with nature conservation. Herding reduces the amount and density of vegetation that is left to dry at the end of the winter, and thus reduces the danger of fires. Moderate, controlled grazing also sustains and even increases flora diversity.
Various, factors endanger the Yehudiya Reserve. A large part of it – the area between the Yehudiya and Daliyot canyons – serves as a military training ground. Tanks and other vehicles damage the soil by leaving behind ruts and trails. Target practice leaves behind ammunition and other military waste and causes fires, which often break out as a result of the soldiers’ carelessness. Although most mature trees survive the fires, they recover and regenerate slowly. Fires damage many nature and farming resources, mainly pasturelands, and thus directly or indirectly harm wildlife and livestock.