The Uniqueness of Israel
Israel’s Rare and Amazing Animals
Your gap year in Israel will give you the opportunity to explore all aspects of the country, from its ancient history to its very modern culture. While there, you will also be able to enjoy Israel’s fantastic wildlife. The country is home to an incredibly diverse range of animals, and you should seize the opportunity to see them.
For example, the marbled polecat is a funny looking animal that was first spotted in Israel in the early 20th century. You may be more likely to smell this animal before you see it, as it is known for its pungent odour. The marbled polecat is often seen around Jerusalem and the Dead Sea area, but it has been seen further south. It is not known how many of these small hunters are in Israel as they are very difficult to trap and observe. Furthermore, they never sleep in the same place twice; instead, they find a new place to rest each evening.
If you like cats then you will want to keep your eyes peeled for an Arabian leopard. Unfortunately, you are very unlikely to see one as they are close to extinction. However, occasionally hikers do report sightings of this fairly small animal with a long tail and black spots. Reassuringly, the leopards do not hunt humans, they prefer smaller pray such as rodents and hares, so if you are lucky enough to spot one then you have nothing to fear.
A more common cat is the caracal, which can be found right across the south of the country. In recent years, the population of caracals seems to have increased and while they usually live alone, they have been seen in small groups. The cats are excellent at climbing trees and prey on animals such as hares and partridges.
Those who are fans of reptiles are possibly in for a real treat. You may spot the Near Eastern fire salamander, which is found in Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. In Israel, it can be found in the north of the country, in the Carmel and Galilee, and unfortunately, it is currently considered an endangered species. The salamanders have a pattern of yellow/orange spots on their backs and there are two venom glands on their necks that emit poison.
You may also spot a Syrian spadefoot toad, a rotund animal with bulging eyes. The toad was first recorded in Israel at the end of the 19th century and their numbers have been steadily declining ever since. The toads are nocturnal and spend their days hidden in burrows, so if you want to see one, you should head out to some winter pools in the evenings.
In contrast is the Hula painted frog. It lives in Lake Hula’s marshes and it was believed to have gone extinct after the lake was drained in the 1950s. However, in 2011, a park ranger spotted one and it is thought that a few hundred of them live in the area.
These are just a few of the many animals that can be found in Israel, so be sure to keep your eyes open during your gap year, as you never know what you may see.