Genetic Studies Link Modern Israeli Grapes to Their Biblical Forebears

In the Torah, God promises numerous times that the Land of Israel will be blessed with an abundance of grapes well-suited for winemaking, and in modern times the country has again become the source of many fine vintages. Scientists have recently found evidence that some of these modern grapes are direct descendants of ancient local cultivars. Judy Siegel-Itzkovich writes:

Seeds that provide a genetic link between two modern varieties of red and white grapes cultivated over 1,100 years ago—and apparently were mentioned in two different books of the Bible—have resulted in an “extraordinary and thrilling discovery” by archaeologists at Tel Aviv University (TAU) and the University of Haifa.

“One ancient seed was found to belong to the Syriki variety, still used to make high-quality red wine in Greece and Lebanon. Since winegrapes are usually named after their place of origin, it is quite possible that the name Syriki is derived from Nahal Sorek, an important stream in the Judean Hills. A second seed was identified as related to the Be’er variety of white winegrapes still growing in the sands of Palmachim on the Mediterranean seashore.”

[In recent years, archaeologists found] a large hoard of grape seeds, discovered on the floor of a sealed room at Avdat, [an ancient city in the Negev]. The researchers explain that these seeds have been relatively well-preserved thanks to protection from climatic phenomena such as extreme temperatures, flooding, or dehydration. In the hope of discovering which varieties the seeds might belong to, the researchers prepared to extract their DNA in the paleogenetic lab. . . .

Finally, the two samples of the highest quality, both from around 900 CE, were identified as belonging to specific local varieties that still exist today. . . . For the first time ever, the researchers were able to use the genome of a grape seed to determine the color of the fruit, discovering that it was in fact a white grape—the oldest botanical specimen of a white variety ever identified.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Archaeology, Israeli agriculture, Wine


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount