By Geoff Winston, Keshet
I had the pleasure last week of taking advantage of the beautiful spring-like weather and the Purim holiday vacation to visit Mount Gilboa. I have always enjoyed the Gilboa – it’s incredible, 360-degree views and the biblical stories that unfold in front of one’s eyes from the top of the mountain.
It was here where Israel’s first king, Saul, was to lead his troops into battle. For the first time in his army career, Saul was scared about the next day’s battle, as God would not answer his queries. He dressed in disguise, snuck across the Jezreel Valley and went to see a fortune-teller in order to find out what would happen to him. He did not like the answer: The battle would be the scene of his sons’ and his own death.
Sure enough, during the next day, King Saul saw the death of three of his own sons before being fatally wounded himself. He had requested from his sword-bearer to kill him, lest the enemy take pleasure in doing so, but the lad refused to kill the king, so Saul had to take care of it himself. Saul’s successor, David, heard the terrible news about the death of his best friend Jonathan, Saul’s son. He cursed the land: “O mountains of Gilboa, may you have neither dew nor rain… ” (2 Samuel 1:21).
When one sees the mountain during the summer, one sees this curse – a clear stoppage of the forest on a certain section of the mountain. However, last week, I was able to see the beauty of what the rain had caused: Not only was the mountain green, not only was there a multitude of flowers of all types, but the granddaddy of all flowers of Israel made its grand appearance: the Gilboa Iris, endemic to the top of this mountain.
If you have time between now and the middle of April to travel to the Gilboa for a glimpse, you will not be disappointed!