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


Iran’s Four-Decade Strategy to Envelope Israel in Terror

Yesterday, the head of the Shin Bet—Israel’s internal security service—was in Washington meeting with officials from the State Department, CIA, and the White House itself. Among the topics no doubt discussed are rising tensions with Iran and the possibility that the latter, in order to defend its nuclear program, will instruct its network of proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq and Yemen to attack the Jewish state. Oved Lobel explores the history of this network, which, he argues, predates Iran’s Islamic Revolution—when Shiite radicals in Lebanon coordinated with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s movement in Iran:

An inextricably linked Iran-Syria-Palestinian axis has actually been in existence since the early 1970s, with Lebanon the geographical fulcrum of the relationship and Damascus serving as the primary operational headquarters. Lebanon, from the 1980s until 2005, was under the direct military control of Syria, which itself slowly transformed from an ally to a client of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The nexus among Damascus, Beirut, and the Palestinian territories should therefore always have been viewed as one front, both geographically and operationally. It’s clear that the multifront-war strategy was already in operation during the first intifada years, from 1987 to 1993.

[An] Iranian-organized conference in 1991, the first of many, . . . established the “Damascus 10”—an alliance of ten Palestinian factions that rejected any peace process with Israel. According to the former Hamas spokesperson and senior official Ibrahim Ghosheh, he spoke to then-Hizballah Secretary-General Abbas al-Musawi at the conference and coordinated Hizballah attacks from Lebanon in support of the intifada. Further important meetings between Hamas and the Iranian regime were held in 1999 and 2000, while the IRGC constantly met with its agents in Damascus to encourage coordinated attacks on Israel.

For some reason, Hizballah’s guerilla war against Israel in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s was, and often still is, viewed as a separate phenomenon from the first intifada, when they were in fact two fronts in the same battle.

Israel opted for a perilous unconditional withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, which Hamas’s Ghosheh asserts was a “direct factor” in precipitating the start of the second intifada later that same year.

Read more at Australia/Israel Review

More about: First intifada, Hizballah, Iran, Palestinian terror, Second Intifada