Following an online vote, last week the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and Israel Nature and Parks Authority named the daboia palaestinae as Israel’s official snake.
Known in English as the Palestine viper, its Hebrew names translate to common viper and Land of Israel viper.
In any language, it is poisonous. But although some 300 people are bitten by the Palestine viper annually in Israel and the West Bank, deaths are extremely rare thanks to the availability of a serum developed by Israel. Each dose costs thousands of dollars to produce.
The viper lives in Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. The Austrian herpetologist Franz Werner gave the snake its Latin name when he documented it in prestate Israel, which then was part of the British Mandate over Palestine.
Measuring up to 5 feet, the Palestine Viper is responsible for an overwhelming majority of the venomous snake bites in Israel; the country has 42 species of snakes including nine venomous ones.
The campaign to select a national snake in Israel was initiated by Avi Zobel, a snake catcher and activist for the preservation of reptile species in Israel. It was sponsored by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority, which gave it an official status.
Daboia palaestinae received 39 percent of 9,419 votes, compared to 12 percent that went to the nonvenomous runner-up, the black whipsnake.
In 2008, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority declared the hoopoe as Israel’s national bird following a similar vote. In September, nebo hierichonticus, Israel’s largest scorpion species, was declared its national scorpion. In Hebrew, the scorpion is called Nebo Jericho, after the Palestinian city in the West Bank.
JTA Wire Service