How Citrus Fruits Came to Israel

Since its development in the 19th century, the Jaffa orange has been one of the land of Israel’s best known agricultural exports. Another citrus fruit, the citron (or etrog) plays a crucial part in the rituals of the holiday of Sukkot. But these fruits are native not to the Near East but to Southeast Asia. The archaeobotanist Dafna Langgut explains her findings about how they arrived in the Levant:

Citrus was first cultivated by humans at least 4,000 years ago in Southeast Asia, and all cultivated species derive from a handful of wild ancestors. Several years ago I found the earliest archaeobotanical evidence of citrus in the Mediterranean in a royal Persian garden near Jerusalem dating to the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. . . .

The citron (citrus medica) was the first citrus fruit to reach the Mediterranean, via Persia. The citron has a thick rind and a small, dry pulp, but [because] it was the first to arrive in the West, the whole group of fruits (citrus) takes its name from this economically unimportant species. . . . The citron and the lemon (a hybrid of the citron and the bitter orange, which was introduced to the West at least four centuries later) were originally considered elite products. For more than a millennium, [they] were the only citrus fruits known in the Mediterranean Basin. . . .

Because it is used during the Sukkot holiday, [the citron] is frequently depicted on Jewish coins and mosaics. . . . . Remains of this species were also found in gardens owned by affluent members of the western Roman world—for example in the area of Vesuvius and around Rome—dated to the 3rd or 2nd centuries BCE. It appears that the citron was considered a valuable commodity due to its healing qualities, symbolic use, pleasant odor, and rarity. . . . Its spread therefore was helped more by its representation of high social status, its significance in religion, and unique features. . . .

In contrast, the sour orange, lime, and pomelo were introduced to the West much later, beginning in the 10th century CE, by the Muslims—probably via Sicily and the Iberian Peninsula.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at ASOR

More about: Archaeology, Etrog, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli agriculture, Sukkot

 

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Read more at Commentary

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times