Gazelle in grass Gazelle in grass A gazelle walks through a grassy knoll in the Ramot Forest. (Photo: © Alex Geifman)

Wander through the wildlife in a lush forest

This wildlife haven is closer to civilization than you'd think – and that's why folks are working to protect it.

Just outside the city of Jerusalem in Israel, a lush knoll thrives with wildlife. Part of the Ramot Forest, Mitzpe Naftoah is a veritable hotspot of biodiversity, boasting hundreds of species of plants and animals, from fluttering butterflies to graceful gazelles.

"It is the last green space before one enters the built-up city," Hilary Herzberger of the non-governmental organization Ramot for the Environment told From the Grapevine. Her group focuses on preserving the area and aims to turn it into a protected park.

A fox takes cover in the foliage of the Ramot ForestThe green foliage in the Ramot Forest offers valuable cover for local foxes. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

With trails and plenty of opportunities to seek out wildlife, the reserve offers a natural paradise for city dwellers.

"Sometimes I come over to the place just for a walk, without a camera," nature photographer Alex Geifman told From the Grapevine. "It is really convenient to have such a place just a 15-minute drive from the city center of Jerusalem."

A grouse makes its way across the forest floorA grouse makes its way across the forest floor. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

When Geifman comes to the forest with his camera in tow, he is very methodical. "I arrive at sunrise or an hour before sunset, when animals become active and the light is at its best."

Then, with careful movement, Geifman attempts to discover the animals before they discover him.

Gazelles greet one another in the Ramot ForestGazelles greet one another in the Ramot Forest. Special moments like this – in such a beautiful setting! – are a rare treat for nature photographers. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

"My favorite subject for photography is mountain gazelles," Geifman said. "There is a healthy population of gazelles at Mitzpe Naftoah and they can be observed at early morning or evening time."

The gazelles are such a well-known feature at the reserve that a "Gazelle Trail" has been designated on the hill where they are most visible.

Foxes play on a rockThe forest's fox residents put on an entertaining show! (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

Geifman also has an eye for foxes, and his photographs show a new side to these little canids.

Each animal that lives in the forest has its own story to tell and an invaluable connection to the environment around it. Indeed, the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel has also recognized Mitzpe Naftoah's importance to the ecosystem.

A bird ruffles its feathers on a chilly day in the forestA bird ruffles its feathers on a chilly day in the forest. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

The area plays host to a hundred or so species of birds. The proposed park plan would dedicate an area near the orchards for birdwatching.

Gazelle in Ramot Forest in springtimeA gazelle cautiously walks through the forest in springtime. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

Gazelles aren't the only ones that enjoy spring afternoons in on the hill. The flowers and trees attract butterflies from all around, and the hill itself is particularly full of these winged beauties during the mating season.

Fox looks into cameraRamot Forest is a nature photographer's dream. This fox even poses for the camera. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

The forest is filled with wildlife, no matter the season.

Gazelle walking through snow in Ramot ForestEven in the wintertime, Ramot Forest remains verdant. (Photo: © Alex Geifman Photography)

A population of upwards of 40 gazelles roam the forest throughout the year. These beautiful animals are protected in Israel, and this herd is the largest in Jerusalem, making it all the more important to protect the forest.

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