The Israeli Farmer Reviving Biblical Flora

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.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Ancient Israel, Dead Sea, Hebrew Bible, Israel & Zionism, Israeli agriculture

 

How the White House Can Bring Mahmoud Abbas to the Negotiating Table

April 28 2017

Next month, the Palestinian Authority president is expected to arrive in Washington to meet with President Trump, perhaps as a prelude to a summit between Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu under American auspices. A Palestinian delegation is currently in the U.S. to conduct preliminary meetings with administration officials. Eran Lerman discusses what can be accomplished:

The most important aspect [in the present discussions] may remain unspoken. It can be defined as “strategic reassurance”: the realization that after years of uncertainty under Barack Obama, the American administration . . . is once again committed without reservation to its friends in the region, the so-called “camp of stability.”

President Obama’s abandonment of [the former Egyptian president], Hosni Mubarak, regardless of the merits of the case, was catastrophic in terms of the loss of any residual political courage on Abbas’s part. Obama was sympathetic to the Palestinians’ cause, but his policies generated an acute level of uncertainty for the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah, laced with what seemed like a measure of support on Obama’s part for the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not an environment in which to take fateful decisions.

The Trump team seems to be working to restore confidence and reconstruct [alliances with] both Israel and the pro-Western Arab states. In this new environment, it could be safer for Abbas to take measured risks and enter into an open-ended negotiation with Netanyahu. The effort may still fall apart, if only because the Palestinians have fallen into the habit of posing preconditions. But there seems to be a better chance of drawing them in when they feel that their traditional patrons in the Arab world, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are once again basking in the sunshine of American strategic support. . . .

At least in theory, it should therefore be easier now for . . . the White House to persuade Abbas to accept a point of entry into negotiations that stays within the two-state paradigm but is no longer predicated on strict adherence to the June 4, 1967 lines.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Donald Trump, Hosni Mubarak, Israel & Zionism, Mahmoud Abbas, Peace Process, U.S. Foreign policy