In ancient times, the production of myrrh—a spice derived from the balsamon tree—was a major industry in the land of Israel. Guy Erlich, a farmer at a kibbutz located between Jericho and the Dead Sea, is seeking to bring back the balsamon along with other biblical plants. Ruth Eglash writes:
While frankincense endured, myrrh almost disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire. The balsamon tree . . . no longer grew on the banks of the Dead Sea, where ancient Hebrew farmers had [once cultivated it], although various species of the plant—known scientifically as commiphora—were found in other places in the Middle East as well as in Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
[E]ight years ago, Erlich heard about the legendary balm of Gilead, a species of myrrh even more powerful [than the standard variety] and once abundant on the Dead Sea’s shores that provided medicine and incense used during the time of the Second Temple.
With effort, Erlich managed to acquire some.
Today, he has more than a thousand commiphora plants, its relation the boswellia (whose resin is used to make frankincense), and numerous other types of biblical greenery growing on an expansive plantation.
His plot of land, on the outskirts of [his] kibbutz, sits way below sea level in the humid and dusty Jordan Valley. There, the land is sandy and salty because of its proximity to the Dead Sea. Erlich works alone; hired help is too expensive.