On June 18, 2023, I woke up with little sleep for my flight from Istanbul Airport. After two days travelling around Istanbul and relaxing (including a day at the beach), it was time to leave Turkey for my first ever solo travel abroad. It was not a usual trip to Europe. It was a really different country than many others my age would visit. I was on my way to Israel. Israel was among the countries that I’ve really wanted to visit, with its rich history and peculiar culture. I got that chance to visit the country, when I was invited by several oak enthusiasts and ecological restoration practitioners.
I was really nervous about the entry procedures into the country, from what I read online and the experiences of my friends. The anxiety about the flight and entry procedures made me unable to sleep. When I arrived at the airport, several hours before the flight, I completed my check-in process. I got asked some questions about my green passport, my travel purpose, the people and places I will visit and the countries I have been to in the past. After that I drank some coffee and later got my passport stamped by the Turkish Border Police. Before boarding the plane, I also went through some through security scans, including checking my bag. I was nervous, but not as much as I’ve expected. I was finally in the plane. After getting in the plane and waiting the plane finally took off. It first made a detour north to the Black Sea, later to come back to the Thracian coast. After crossing through the western periphery of Istanbul, the plane flew over the Marmara Sea for some time. After Marmara Sea, the plane crossed the Anatolian Peninsula down to the city of Antalya. After flying over Antalya, there was a long journey over the Mediterranean until Tel Aviv. 1 hour and 40 minutes later, the plane landed to Ben Gurion Airport. After some security and passport checks, I was finally in Israel. However, I was surprised that the authorities didn’t stamp my passport.
I left the airport after getting some Shekels and took a taxi to Tel Aviv center. My first destination was the famous Carmel Market. Where I met a middle aged lady, who emigrated from Turkey. She has a small stall in the souk where she sells Turkish coffee and desserts. She also appeared on some travel vlogs of some Turkish YouTubers. I bought muhallebi from her and she gave me a cup of Turkish coffee for free, after learning that I’m Turkish. With the energy I got from the muhallebi and the coffee, I walked to the other side of the souk and from there continued by the seaside, until Old Jaffa. It was really tiring to walk 2-3 km with 2 full bags, however the seaside view was worth it. From the first hour, I could say that I really liked the country. At Jaffa, I sat down at a seaside bar and grabbed some drinks (including Goldstar of course). After some drinking and eating, I walked around the beautiful Old Jaffa, with its sea view, traditional architecture and diverse-vibrant life. After a beautiful noon and afternoon at Old Jaffa, I went to the bus station and took the bus to the Northern Israeli kibbutz that I will be staying. When I arrived, the hosts gave me the keys and showed me around. They also prepared a small dinner for me. After the small dinner, I fell asleep. I was tired from all the border crossing formality, the flight and walking around Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa.
The next day was the survival monitoring day. I woke up around 6 am to meet Mr. Nir Herr near my accommodation place. Thanks to waking up early, I had opportunity to see sunbirds for the first time in my life. After eating some cereal, I met with Mr. Nir Herr. He took me to the restoration sites near the settlement of Bat Shlomo. We had a brief stop for coffee and snacks at Bat Shlomo, where we met with the remaining part of the team. After that brief stop, we continued to the restoration site. The restoration site is on an infertile soil, covered with garrigue (bata in Hebrew) and some shrubs. The parent material is limestone, which is not the optimum for oak growth. As Mr. Nir Herr said, the most suitable parent material for Quercus ithaburensis oak growth is chalk. After some preparations at the site, we started measuring several 20 m lines, we looked 5 meters on each side of the line for oak seedlings. After taking the number of oak seedlings on each 200 square meter area, we multiplied the number with 5 to get the approximate number of trees per dunam. According to Mr. Nir Herr, the number of trees per dunam should be between 5 and 25 under the current conditions. However, in more suitable conditions, the seedling number should be between 40 and 50.
We counted the seedlings for more than 5 hours under the scorching Israeli sun. It was quite tiring for me to be honest. However I learnt some important things about oaks, their growing conditions and oak restoration practices.