In Israel, Ancient Date Palms Bloom Again

February 7, 2020 | Stuart Winer and Sue Surkes
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When listing the agricultural bounty of the Land of Israel, the Hebrew Bible repeatedly mentions dates as one of the fruits that grow there in abundance. A group of Israeli researchers recently announced that they have successfully grown date palms using ancient seeds that had been found in the Judean desert. Stuart Winer and Sue Surkes write:

Dozens of seeds were gleaned from archaeological collections gathered at locations in the dry Dead Sea area, including the Masada hilltop fortress built by King Herod the Great in the 1st century BCE and the ancient site of Qumran, famous for the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the 1940s. Six saplings grew from 32 seeds sown; the plants have been dubbed Adam, Jonah, Uriel, Boaz, Judith, and Hannah.

“Germination of 2000-year-old seeds of Phoenix dactylifera from Judean desert archaeological sites provides a unique opportunity to study the Judean date palm, described in antiquity for the quality, size, and medicinal properties of its fruit, but lost for centuries,” the researchers wrote. . . . Radiocarbon dating revealed the seeds used for the project came from a period spanning the 4th century BCE to the 2nd century CE.

Israel’s popular Medjool and Deglet Nour dates were brought to Israel from Iraq and Morocco by Jews in the early part of the last century. The only cultivated dates already present [previously] were limited plantations of sire dates planted by the Ottoman Turks.

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