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

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict