Grab a Bible (yes, you read that right) before you visit the Hai Bar Biblical Wildlife Reserve in Eilat, at the southernmost tip of Israel.
In addition to protecting endangered species or those on the brink of extinction, the reserve also makes a home for desert birds and hoofed mammals mentioned in the Bible.
Located in a desert area, the Reserve, opened in the 1960s, is part of the Yotvata Reserve, about 25 miles north of Eilat. Once there, visitors will notice a profusion of acacia trees: These trees maintain a savanna environment year-round, and the leaves, flower and fruit also provide the main source of food for the herbivorous animals.
The goal of the Reserve is to protect the animals and increase their population, as well as to reintroduce them into the wild. Inhabitants in the Reserve include the Arabian Oryx (a medium-sized antelope), the Onager (which bears a resemblance to a small horse or donkey, and was the first animal to be reintroduced to the Negev Desert), the Dorcas Gazelle, and the Ostrich (the largest bird alive today).
The Reserve, which spans more than 3,000 acres, includes both open and penned areas; visitors can gaze upon both, and can also visit the Predator’s Center, which features canines (such as wolves and foxes), felines (sand cats and leopards), and vultures; arrangements can be made to observe the evening feeding.
And file this under the-not-to-be-missed category: The Desert Night Life Exhibition Hall. Since many desert animals are nocturnal, visitors who tour during the day may miss much of the activity. This exhibition simulates nighttime, with corresponding adjustments in temperature, lighting that evokes moonlight, and higher humidity. Guests may see bats, the desert hedgehog, the garden dormouse, and more. They may not be from the Bible, but how many people can say they’ve seen a garden dormouse, anyway?