Biblical Dates Come to Life

Sept. 8 2020

The Hebrew Bible and the Talmud make frequent mention of the date palm, and both works list its fruit among the agricultural products that distinguish the Land of Israel. After fifteen years of effort, a team of Israeli scientists have used 2,000-year-old seeds to recreate the dates of the Bible. Isabel Kershner writes:

A Roman coin minted around 70 CE to celebrate the conquest of Judea depicted the Jewish defeat as a woman weeping under a date palm. But by the Middle Ages, the famed Judean plantations had died out. Wars and upheaval likely made their cultivation impractical, as did their need for copious amounts of water in summer. . . .

Elaine Solowey, [an agricultural scientist], planted the seeds in quarantined pots in January 2005, not expecting much, but nevertheless employing a few “horticultural tricks” to try to coax them out of their long slumber, involving warming, careful hydration, a plant hormone, and enzymatic fertilizer.

This endeavor produced a tree named Methuselah, which turned out to be male. But growing dates requires trees of both sexes:

[Soloway’s collaborator, Sarah] Sallon went searching again and chose more than 30 seeds from another stash from archaeological sites in the Judean desert, including Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Planted at Kibbutz Keturah between 2011 and 2014, six of the seeds sprouted. They were given the names of biblical figures when they germinated, but as their sexes became clear over time, Judah became Judith, Eve became Adam, and Jeremiah became Hannah.

Hannah’s seed, which came from an ancient burial cave in Wadi el-Makkukh near Jericho, . . . was carbon dated to between the 1st and 4th centuries BCE, becoming one of the oldest known seeds ever to have been germinated.

The match between Hannah and Methuselah produced dates that, reportedly, were delicious.

Read more at New York Times

More about: Ancient Israel, Hebrew Bible, Israeli agriculture, Land of Israel, Talmud

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy