PLANT NAMES: STATION 3: LOOKOUT and VILLAGE OLIVE PRESS
water jar for Eliezer, and declares, “I will also draw for your camels, until
STATION 7: MIKVEH (Ritual Bath)
You will have to look a little harder for the low-growing hyssop bush
In the guide: The plant numbers correspond to the English, Latin, and “.the land you are entering to inherit is a land of hills and valleys.”
they finish drinking” (Genesis 24:19). Maybe this doesn’t sound like much,
While all the peoples who inhabited this area used similar pressing
(102), which, in direct contrast to the cedar, blends modestly into its
Hebrew names listed on the reverse side of the excursion map.
but after weeks in the desert, each of Eliezer’s camels needed at least 100
techniques for olive oil and wine, the ritual bath was distinctively Jewish.
surroundings. Requiring little soil and water, the hyssop can indeed
On the ground: 3-digit plant numbers appear on leaf-shaped green signs;
liters (26 gallons) of water, or about 20 buckets of the size you have just
The discovery of this mikveh was thus the first concrete evidence of
grow “in the rock.” Pick a leaf, rub it, and enjoy the fragrance. This is
From this vantage point, at an elevation of about 200 meters above sea
plants visible only when in blossom are indicated by a number followed
drawn. A camel can lose 120 liters (32 gallons) of water – up to 30% of its
Jewish settlement here. Artifacts found in the mikveh date it to the end of
wild oregano, a familiar Mediterranean spice, and the main ingredient in
level, you can understand some of the geographic realities of Israel. The
body weight − and make up the loss in 10 minutes of intensive drinking.
the Second Temple period (late 1st century BCE - early 1st century CE).
a popular Middle-Eastern seasoning called za’atar in Arabic. Accessible
flat coastal plain towards the horizon, where today you see the skyscrapers
Since Eliezer was traveling with 10 thirsty camels, Rebecca’s offer meant
to all, not only kings with wealth and influence, the hyssop also has
There are restrooms and litter baskets along the trail.
of Tel Aviv about 20 kilometers away, served as the main commercial
Immersion in the mikveh has to do with ritual purity which was required,
hours of hard work − evidence that she was not only beautiful but kind,
medicinal properties, and its dry branches make excellent kindling.
Bordering Neot Kedumim to the north is an Israel Defense Forces training base; don’t
thoroughfare connecting the two great kingdoms of the ancient world:
for example, before entering the Temple to offer a sacrifice. The workers
gracious, and generous (as well as strong!).
Polar opposites in appearance, demands, function, and accessibility,
be alarmed if you hear gunfire.
Egypt and Assyria/Babylon. Trade flourished on this north-south axis,
involved in producing olive oil or wine, some of which was brought as
called by the Romans Via Maris, the Way of the Sea. Neot Kedumim is
Water from the cistern was used not only for drinking and various
tithes to the priests in the Temple, also had to be ritually pure.
cedar and hyssop became a classic biblical contrast, as in the above verse
STATION 1: ORIENTATION OVERLOOK
situated along an easy route taken by pilgrims landing in the ancient port
domestic uses, but also to water flocks and small vegetable gardens, and
where they illustrate the range of King Solomon’s wisdom. It’s not hard
The mikveh has to contain at least 40 seah (about 300 liters or 80 gallons)
Israel is “a land that has many lands within it.”(Sifri, Ekev 39)
for whatever household crafts required water, like pottery and tanning.
to see how the cedar became associated with kingship, power, and pride,
of “flowing” or “living” water – rain or spring or river water that has
Larger-scale cultivation (grain, grapevines, olives) was totally dependent
Neot Kedumim is located in the area known in the Bible
“.clear oil of beaten olives for lighting.” (Exodus 27:20)
flowed directly into the mikveh (Mishna, Menakhot 12,4). According to
on the winter rains, as stated in Deuteronomy 11:17: “.there will be no
as the Shephelah (the Judean foothills or lowlands) lying
The excavations carried out at Neot Kedumim exposed part of a village
Jewish law, the flowing water purifies water drawn from a cistern and
rain and the ground will not yield its produce.”
between the flat coastal plain to the west and the Judean
complex that covers approximately 15 acres; you will see another quarter
makes the mikveh fit for ritual immersion. The roots of the Christian
hills rising towards Jerusalem to the southeast. The bare
of the village at the next stop on the trail. The installation you see here is
About 45 cisterns have been discovered in this area of Neot Kedumim,
practice of baptism lie in the practice of ritual immersion in the mikveh.
hills to the northwest are what the Neot Kedumim site
a 5th century CE (late Talmudic era) olive oil press. It is part of a larger
each with a capacity of approximately 200 cubic meters. From the cisterns’
looked like before development began in the early 1970s.
Byzantine industrial complex comprising two additional olive presses
size and numbers, archaeologists have determined that up to 100 nuclear
STATION 8: EARLY BYZANTINE CHAPEL and CAPER BUSH
Neot Kedumim is an “artificial” nature reserve. The
nearby. The wooden beam press and stone weight are reconstructions. In
families (about 500 people) lived on this site. The average use of water
This chapel, characteristic of the earliest Christian communities in the
trees are quite real, but were planted or transplanted
this region of the world, olive oil has been a dietary staple for thousands
was about 15 liters per person per day, not including water for the flocks
land of Israel, is from the early 4th century CE and faces east towards
by human hands. Thousands of tons of soil were
of years. In addition to food, its most important uses were for lighting oil
and vegetable gardens. That’s less than the water for one baby bath!
Jerusalem. The mosaic cross is set in the floor of what was the center of
trucked in because centuries of overgrazing,
lamps, for healing, and as an important component in the production of
the apse, surrounded by the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet,
“And I Myself will gather the remnant of My flock. and I will appoint
battles, and neglect has eroded the slopes down
alpha A and omega Ω. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the
over them shepherds who will tend them; they shall no longer fear or be
last, the beginning and the end” (Revelation 22:13). This chapel may have
Olive oil also had important ceremonial uses: lighting the menorah in the
dismayed, and none of them shall be missing” (Jeremiah 23:3-4).
served as a prayer-room in a house, perhaps part of a monastic village.
As you continue to Station 2, you will pass an
Temple and anointing kings and priests. In Hebrew, a person anointed
Herding is a lonely and dangerous business, so it’s not surprising that
The house was built on the remains of a winepress from an earlier period
excavated winepress that was probably first hewed at
with olive oil is MaSHuaCH, in its English form, “messiah.” The Greek
leading figures in Scriptures apprenticed as shepherds. Those who proved
the end of the Second Temple period in the 1st century CE
“Christos” has the same meaning − anointed. Today, on the eve of the
themselves as shepherds could be trusted to lead the nation, like Moses
and renovated during the 6th-7th centuries.
Sabbath, Jews all over the world light candles, reminiscent of olive oil
and David. The image of the good shepherd was so central to the biblical
The millstone incorporated into the floor in front of the threshold reminds
lamps. Various Christian churches use olive oil in baptismal and healing
experience that it became the prime image of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my
the worshipper of the words from Matthew (18:6): “If any of you put
STATION 2: EMPTY CISTERN
ceremonies, ritual blessings, in the ordination of priests, and as part of the
shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He
a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believes in me, it
“For the land into which you go. drinks water from the rain of
coronation ceremony of the English monarch.
leads me beside the still waters.” (Psalm 23:1-2)
would be better for you to have a great millstone tied around your neck
heaven” (Deuteronomy 11:10-11).
and you were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Note the two small rooms
On the eve of the Exodus from Egypt, the Israelites are commanded to mark
“If you obey [understand] the commandments I give you this day. I
excavated in the courtyard. They were probably used by monks who lived
STATION 4: VILLAGE EXCAVATIONS
their doorposts with bunches of hyssop dipped in the blood of the Passover
will grant the rain for your land in season, the early rain and the late”
here, as well as by pilgrims passing through on their way to Jerusalem.
“I will restore My people Israel. They shall rebuild ruined cities and
lamb sacrifice (Exodus 12:21-23). While the blood marks the Israelites’
(Deuteronomy 11:13). inhabit them.”
The thorny caper bush (105) is a survivor that seems to thrive on difficulty.
doorways so that the last of the 10 plagues, the plague of the death of the
Israel is a semi-arid land, totally dependent on rainwater that falls, at
The caper grows with minimal soil and water, in the midst of the Sinai
“One generation goes, and another comes, but the earth abides forever”
firstborn, will pass over them, the hyssop reminds them to remain humble
best, between late October and late March. The fear of drought was ever-
Desert, and between the stones of the Western Wall. Burned down,
and avoid rejoicing at the Egyptians’ terrible punishment.
present, dramatically voiced in the most dire punishment the Lord could
chopped to the ground, or covered with hot asphalt, the caper is impossible
visit upon Israel, to “shut up the heavens so there will be no rain and the
This excavation offers you a glimpse of several periods of history − from
to get rid of. The caper is fresh and green in the dry summer months when
The Bible sees leprosy as the punishment for pride. Those who set
land will not yield its produce.” (Deuteronomy 11:17). For the Israelites to
the late Second Temple through the early Moslem period, approximately
everything else is brown, and dry in winter when most plants are green.
themselves above the community and its laws are stricken with the
settle and farm the hill country of the Promised Land, they had to dig
1st century BCE - 8th century CE. The alley, houses, and courtyards
No wonder that when the Sages gave examples of survivors in history and
disease that indeed cuts them off from the community. To rejoin the
cisterns such as the one here. Dug out from soft limestone rock, the
with their cisterns made up one of the streets in this Jewish community
nature, they chose “Israel among the nations. the goat among the cattle,
community, the cured leper underwent a ceremony that included cedar
STATION 6: FAMILY WINEPRESS
cistern’s purpose was to collect winter runoff rain water. Whatever water
from the late Second Temple period and later (1st century BCE to 2nd
and. the caper among the trees” (Babylonian Talmud, Beitza 25b).
wood and hyssop (Leviticus 14:2-4). The sages explain: the leper was proud
“. bringing bread out of the earth and wine to gladden men’s hearts,
was collected in the cistern had to suffice for the people’s every need for
century CE). During the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries), this village
like the cedar, and God humbled him like the hyssop that is crushed by all
oil to make their faces shine” (Psalms 104:14-15).
For its perseverance and productivity the caper was chosen as the emblem
was expanded to serve as a hostel for pilgrims going up to Jerusalem.
of Neot Kedumim. It was designed by Zvi Narkiss, a renowned Israeli
A system of arches supported the ceilings. Some of the stones in the arch
“Honor the Lord. then. your vats will burst with new wine”
Most of the cisterns found at Neot Kedumim are empty of water year
were found scattered on the ground, and were used in its reconstruction.
King David committed a sin by taking the beautiful Bathsheba and sending
round. The thick coatings of lime-based plaster cracked over the
Archaeologists believe that monks lived here in an ecclesiastical farm
her husband off to be killed in battle (II Samuel 11). According to Talmudic
centuries, causing whatever rainwater collects in the cisterns to seep into
community, supplying the needs of the pilgrims going to Jerusalem and
Winepresses, such as the one on the left side of the trail, were always
tradition, David recognized that he had sinned by placing himself above
the soil, leaving only a layer of mud on the floor. “For My people. have
those of early Christians who lived in the nearby town of Lod.
hewed out of bedrock at the edge of the vineyard so that the farmer would
the moral law (“He [the king] will not act haughtily towards his fellows.
forsaken Me, the Fount of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns,
not have to transport the easily bruised grapes a great distance. This
[Deuteronomy 17:20]). He was stricken with leprosy for six months, the
broken cisterns, which cannot even hold water” (Jeremiah 2:13).
The white, conical sundial is a reproduction of a typical Roman sundial,
Modi’in region was famous for both its olive oil and its wine, and the
fitting punishment for such pride (Sanhedrin 107a), and asked the Lord:
like those that were placed in market squares and in the courtyards
You are invited to climb down the 17 rungs of the ladder. (You may
surrounding hills were once covered with vineyards and olive groves.
“Cleanse me with hyssop that I may be pure” (Psalm 51:9).
of homes of the well-to-do. The twelve vertical lines mark the hours
surprise some doves or owls nesting inside.) When you reach the bottom,
between sunrise and sunset. The shadow of the pointer (gnomon) marks
This winepress, like the one you passed near the start of the trail, is
As you continue on the trail, you will see a stand of tall bushes with long,
you will experience what Joseph and the prophet Jeremiah must have
a family-size winepress that was probably first hewed at the end of the
needle-like branches. This is the white broom (103), whose tiny white
felt when they were lowered into “the pit.” The life-giving cistern, when
Second Temple period in the 1st century CE and renovated during the 6-
flowers exude a wonderful fragrance when they bloom in February-
empty and neglected, could well serve as an effective prison:
7th centuries. On your way to the next stop, you will see a larger, mosaic-
March. The white broom grows in the sandy hills of the coastal plain and
“When Joseph came up to his brothers, they. took him and cast him into the
STATION 5: SHEEP PEN and CISTERN
floored wine press from the Byzantine period (4-5th centuries). (Cross
in the Negev desert. It is one of the most effective plants for holding back
cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it”
“And when Jacob saw Rachel. and the flock of his uncle Laban, Jacob
section and isometric drawings and explanations are posted at the site.)
sand dune. It is called rotem םתור in Hebrew, from the same root as the
“So they took Jeremiah and put him down in the cistern. they let
went near and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the
word ratam, meaning to harness, rein in, which is exactly what the roots
Jeremiah down by ropes. There was no water in the cistern, only mud,
flock.” (Genesis 29:10)
Just as olive oil has its ceremonial uses, so too does wine. In the Temple
of the rotem do to sand. This is one of the very few instances in taxonomy
and Jeremiah sank into the mud” (Jeremiah 38:6).
Even though this is a cistern where rainwater is collected and not a well
in Jerusalem, the libation of wine was poured over the altar. In almost
in which the Latin name, Retama raetam, was taken from the Hebrew.
that has an underground water source, the idea is the same as in this verse
every religious ceremony, Jews bless the fruit of the vine. So important
from Genesis: boy meets girl near the source of water. Try your luck at
was grape-growing in ancient times that grape seeds have been found
Until recent times, Bedouins in the Negev and Sinai used the white broom
drawing up water and pouring it into the trough for the sheep and goats.
in most archaeological excavation in Israel, and the grape is the most
to make coal, a practice common in biblical times, as illustrated by the
(The water is unsafe for human consumption.)
frequently mentioned plant in the Bible.
following passage from the book of Job: When the wealthy and fortunate Job loses everything, he bitterly complains: “Now those younger than
Remember Moses, who helped water the flocks of Jethro, priest of Midian,
The land allotted to the tribe of Judah not far from this area, was particularly
I deride me, men whose fathers I would have disdained to put among
and in appreciation was given his daughter, Zipporah, for wife (Exodus 2:
famous for its grapes, as reflected in Jacob’s blessing to Judah:
my sheep dogs. they who pick the salt plant leaves and the root of the
16-21)? Or perhaps you would like to enact the fateful meeting between
white broom is their bread” (Job 30:1,4). The reference here is not to eating
Abraham's servant and Rebecca, which also took place at a well (Genesis 24):
STATION 9: CEDAR and HYSSOP
the root of the white broom, which is totally inedible in any form, but
King Solomon “spoke of the trees, from the cedar of Lebanon to the
In search of a suitable wife for his son Isaac, Abraham dispatches his
rather to earning one’s bread − meaning to earn one’s living. Making
His robe in blood of grapes” (Genesis 49:11). hyssop that grows in the rock” (I Kings 5:13).
faithful servant Eliezer to Mesopotamia, Abraham’s native land. Eliezer
coal from the white broom root was smoky, sooty work, the humblest
sets off with a caravan of 10 camels and eventually reaches a well outside
The grapevine is also a biblical symbol for the nation of Israel as a whole:
In its native Lebanon, the cedar (101) can tower to a height of 30 meters
of occupations. For the aristocratic Job, being mocked by nomads who
the city of Nahor. Awaiting the young women
(90 feet). Cedars never grew in Israel and were imported from Lebanon
“earned their bread” in this way was bitter indeed.
who are coming to draw water, Eliezer asks
as a glamorous building material. King Solomon purchased expensive
for a sign that will point him to the right
Lebanese cedar logs to build the interior of the Temple in Jerusalem:
The salt plants (104) across the path from the white broom illustrate the
it took deep root and filled the land” (Psalm 80:9-10).
“Solomon. paneled the walls of the House [of the Lord] with planks of
same verse from Job 30:4. The salt plant provides food for both people
cedar. The cedar [wood] of the interior of the House had carvings. it
and camels in the Negev and other desert regions. The leaves can be eaten
was all cedar, no stone was exposed” (I Kings 6:14-18). Solomon’s elaborate
raw but often are so salty that they can be used instead of salt in cooked
armory, the “House of the Forest of Lebanon,” was also built of cedar
dishes. Since in Israel the Dead Sea provides quantities of cheap salt, salt
wood: “He built the House of the Forest of Lebanon. of cedar columns,
plant leaves were not used to produce salt, but were used for food by the
and with hewn cedar beams above the columns” (I Kings 7:2).
poorest of the poor − and even they mocked Job. STATION 10: THE PARABLE OF JOTHAM STATION 11: POOL OF SOLOMON
The Sharon was a famous grazing area in biblical times, the region where
STATION 14: THRESHING FLOOR
The tree spreading its shade over the stone seating area is the jujube (108)
The author of Ecclesiastes, traditionally believed to be King Solomon,
the shepherdess in the Song of Songs pastured her flocks, as she describes
You are in a threshing floor, the place where the grain was separated from
− leafless in especially cold winters, bearing small, mealy, crabapple-like
wrote: “I laid out gardens and groves where I planted fruit trees of
herself in terms of two Sharon wildflowers: “I am the ‘rose of Sharon, the
the stalks of wheat. This was the scene of the meeting between Ruth and
fruit in late summer, and bristling with thorns (both long, straight ones
every kind. I made pools of water to irrigate a forest of growing trees”
lily of the valleys’” (Song of Songs 2:1). The identification of these two flowers
Boaz, the progenitors of King David. The threshing floor was the focus of
and shorter, hooked ones) all year round. The thorns explain the tree’s
has been debated through the centuries. Commonly translated as “rose of
the biblical farmer’s life for six months of the year. The floor was cleaned
Latin name, Ziziphus spina-christi, one of several candidates for Jesus’
Sharon,” ןורשה תלצבח havatzelet hasharon is more likely the Sharon tulip
in March before the start of the barley harvest, which began on Passover.
The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel
This Pool of Solomon is part of a chain of six pools built to catch and store
(159), a bright reddish-orange flower that grows in the sandy Sharon soil
Farmers worked “by the sweat of their brow” (Genesis 3:19) until the end
winter runoff rain water, and − like those made by King Solomon − used
In Honor of the Fifth President of Israel, Yitzhak Navon
and blooms in March and April. (The Hebrew תלצבח havatzelet relates to
of the wheat harvest in mid-summer. After the harvest, the rocky soil
The jujube, by the Hebrew name of atad דטא, features in a dramatic
for irrigation in the early days of Neot Kedumim. Today it is a beautiful
the root לצב batzal, meaning onion or bulb, from which the tulip grows.)
was plowed several times to prepare the field for the next season’s crop,
parable in Judges 9. (Though atad is generally mistranslated as
spot for rest and meditation, and the site of huppot (wedding canopies)
A prime candidate for םיקמעה תנשוש shoshanat ha’amakim, commonly
planted right after the first winter rains in late October.
“thornbush” or “bramble,” the jujube, as a shade-giving fruit tree, has
for the many wedding ceremonies conducted at Neot Kedumim.
translated as “lily of the valleys,” is the narcissus (119).
attributes that perfectly fit the parable.) The tale begins with Gideon,
“When the Lord returns the exiles to Zion. They who sow in tears shall
one of the early judges of Israel who rids the Israelites of the marauding
When the date palms (155) were transplanted from a nursery in northern
To the right of trail lies a cultivated field of thorns (120), a plant farmers
reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping bearing the seed-bag,
Midianites. Asked to establish a monarchic dynasty by the grateful
Sinai in 1976, they were too young to be identified as male or female.
uproot as a troublesome weed. These חוח hoakh (plural םיחוח hokhim)
shall come back with songs of joy, carrying his sheaves” (Psalm 126:1, 5-6).
people, he refuses: “I will not rule over you myself, nor shall my son
Fortunately, since the female date palm needs male pollen to produce
thorns sprout in March after the winter rains, with yellow flowers
Bringing forth bread from the earth is an arduous task. Hard work isn’t
rule over you; the Lord alone shall rule over you” (Judges 8:23). Gideon
fruit, both sexes are present. The dates ripen in the fall, around the time
appearing in June. The hoakh turns brown and then grayish white at the
enough − “the rains from heaven” determine the ultimate success of the
TRAIL A (WHITE) Distance: 2 km
goes back to his farm and his large family (many wives and 70 sons), and
crop. Since wheat and barley were the chief sustenance in biblical times,
and survival hinged on the grain crop, the gamble of sowing seed was central to people’s lives.
But Avimelech, Gideon’s son by his concubine in Shechem (Nablus),
Accessible to strollers and wheelchairs
does not inherit his father’s noble qualities. He gives himself a name
The Bible ties several extraordinary commandments governing social
The rebuilding of this trail for the needs of the handicapped was made
meaning “my father is king,” (avi melech) indicating that he has cast
responsibility for the less fortunate to the grain harvest: “And when you
possible with the support of the Kahanoff Foundation and the Ministry
his eye on the hereditary monarchy his father refused, and after Gideon
reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of
of Tourism through its development arm, the Israel Government Tourist
dies he has no scruples about violently seizing power. After effectively
your field (pe’a האפ), or gather the gleanings (leket טקל) of your harvest;
silencing the opposition by killing his 70 half-brothers “on one stone,”
you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger” (Leviticus 23:22). “When
he finds enough followers among his mother’s relatives in Shechem and
you reap the harvest in your field and overlook (shikhekha החכש) a sheaf
some hired riffraff to proclaim him king.
in the field, do not turn back to get it; it shall go to the stranger, the orphan, and the widow.” (Deuteronomy 24:19).
Enter Jotham, Avimelech’s youngest half-brother, who managed to hide and escape with his life. Quickly taking stock of the situation at
The certainty that there will be bread to eat is a source of great joy, a
Avimelech’s anointing in Shechem, Jotham climbs Mount Gerizim,
symbol of the hope for a peaceful future when people “shall beat their
overlooking the city. Rather than risk a head-on confrontation with the
swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks: Nation
Avimelech faction, he tells the crowd a parable about trees:
shall not take up sword against nation; they shall never again know war” (Isaiah 2:4).
Once the [fruit] trees went looking for a king. They asked the olive, fig, and grapevine in turn, who (in the spirit of Gideon) each refused to
Wheat played an important role in the Temple ritual − the 12 loaves of
leave their rich and useful fruit to take up politics. Only the atad agreed,
“Like the shoshana among the hokhim (thorns), so is my beloved among
the Presence in the Temple (one for each tribe of Israel), as well as the
saying: “If you really mean to anoint me as your king, then come and take
the young women” (Song of Songs 2:2). Thus the shepherd in the Song
sacrifices. In Jewish tradition, blessing the bread blesses the entire meal,
shelter in my shade; if not, fire shall issue from the atad and consume the
At the center of every date palm are several lulavim (plural of lulav), which
describes his beloved. In their natural habitat, the narcissus and the hoakh
and the full grace after meals is recited only when bread is eaten.
are the embryonic, unopened fronds growing at the tree’s heart (lev). The
(Judges 9:15). If you have acted honorably in crowning
thorn often share a common growing area. In December-January, when
Try to locate the following implements around the threshing floor
Avimelech, adds Jotham − then enjoy each other. But if not, fire will
lulav’s sword-like shape may be a source of the tree’s association with
the narcissus blossoms, its gentle white beauty stands out among the tall
and match them to the verses below. Because the Bible speaks to an
issue from Avimelech and consume the citizens of Shechem, and fire will
victory. Date palms symbolizing triumph appear on coins minted by
white thorns − just as in the eyes of her lover, the shepherdess in the Song
agricultural people, these tools became metaphors for spiritual ideas.
issue from the citizens of Shechem and consume Avimelech. With that,
the Maccabees (to celebrate their victory over the Greeks) and by the
“Will the plowman continually plow for the sowing, breaking up and
Jotham makes a discreet exit and leaves the people to draw their own
Romans (on their “Judaea Capta” coins commemorating their conquest
2005. Neot Kedumim Ltd, P.O.Box 1007, Lod 71110, Israel. All rights reserved.
As you proceed around the pond, note the fragrant myrtle (145) bushes and
“Like a thorn in the hand of a drunkard, so is a proverb in the mouth of a
“Ply the sickle, for the harvest is ripe” (Joel 4:13).
The parable explained: Jotham’s audience, people of the land, were
the cattails (156). It was among such cattails along the banks of the Nile that
fool” (Proverbs 26:9). Like the shepherd in the Song of Songs, the book of
“I will make of you a new threshing board with many sharp knives.”
familiar with the atad tree, not only its appealing shade and fruit, but also
the infant Moses was hidden in his floating papyrus basket (Exodus 2:3).
Proverbs employs the common habitat of narcissus and thorns to make
its aggressive thorniness, the secondary importance of its fruit compared
a point. Reaching for the beautiful narcissus, the drunkard might end
“Not so the wicked: they are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Psalms 1:4).
to the olive, fig, and grape − and most of all the fate of any tree that “takes
If the water is still, you can see the cedars and date palms reflected
up with a sharp thorn plant in his hand, with painful results. Similarly,
(A winnowing fork is used to separate the kernels from the chaff.)
shelter in its shade.” For the atad’s widespreading root system, extending
together, illustrating the words of Psalm 92: “The righteous person
reaching for a proverb, the fool may painfully pick the wrong one.
“What has straw to do with [sifted] grain?” (Jeremiah 23:28)
as far as the shade of its branches, is notorious for leaching all nourishment
flourishes like a date palm, and grows tall as a cedar of Lebanon” (92:
from the soil. As the people of Shechem well knew, any tree planted in the
13). The two trees were “planted in the house of the Lord, and flourish in
The trees planted around this pool are sycomores (113) (also called
shade of the atad had little future − and the implication was clear.
the courts of our God” (92:14) − a possible reference to the magnificent
“Egyptian fig,” no relation to the sycamore of the northern hemisphere).
THE APPLE AMONG THE TREES OF THE FOREST
gardens King Solomon planted around the Temple in Jerusalem, where
Since it is native to the lowlands (I Kings 10:27), the sycomore was one of
As for the fire: It was likely for fire to “issue from the atad,” whose
“Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved
cedars from the north and date palms from the south symbolized the
the first trees returned to its original habitat when Neot Kedumim began
branches catch fire quickly and make excellent kindling. But it was
among the young men” (Song of Songs 2:3).
highly unlikely for such fire to “consume the cedars of Lebanon,” which
Praised as a “narcissus among the thorns,” the shepherdess returns the
grow in the northern mountains, far from the lowland-dwelling atad. The
The trees opposite the date palms around the Pool of Solomon are
Although its offshoots don’t live long after cutting, the sycomore tree
compliment by calling her lover “an apple tree among the trees of the
fire emanating from the atad would be like war, sweep through the entire
willow-poplars (114). These willows grow in warm climates where there
itself is expert at regenerating. A variation of its Hebrew name, המקש
forest.” What exactly is this apple tree? Probably not the cultivated apple,
country, and leaving destruction in its wake.
is abundant water, as along the shores of the Jordan River. This is the
shikma, means “rehabilitation.” Chopped down to the ground, the
which cannot grow “among the trees of the forest.” More likely it is the
same species of willow under which the Jews, exiled “by the waters of
sycomore grows new branches. If wind or water expose its roots, the
The prophecy fulfilled: Three years after Avimelech is crowned, a “spirit
hawthorn (125), which grows in Israel’s natural forests and bears small,
Babylon, sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows
sycomore sends deeper roots into the ground. If sand covers the entire
of discord” comes between the king and the people of Shechem. In the
crabapple-like fruit in late summer. “Your breath is like the fragrance of
there we hung up our lyres” (Psalm 137:1-2). The continuation of this psalm
tree, the branches send roots downward into the sand and shoots upward,
course of the bloody fighting that follows, Avimelech meets his end when
apples” (Song of Songs 7:10). It was the fragrance of the hawthorn flowers,
is traditionally recited by bridegrooms as they break the glass under the
and a new young tree starts growing above the ground.
a woman drops a millstone on his head. “And so the curse of Jotham.
unmistakable in early spring, with which the shepherd praised his beloved.
wedding canopy as a symbol of mourning for the destruction of Jerusalem
was fulfilled upon them” (Judges 9:57).
The sycomore’s regenerative powers appear in a homily based on Isaiah’s
and the Holy Temple: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand
As you turn right along the path just before Station 13, you will see one
Some of the material in this guide is treated in detail in the
prophecy of hope: “They shall build houses and live to inhabit them; they
wither; let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I cease to think of
of the most beautiful trees of the forest, the Mediterranean redbud (126),
books Nature in Our Biblical Heritage and Tree and Shrub
shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build for others to
you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my greatest joy” (Psalm 137:5-6).
which in early spring is covered with stunning deep pink flowers. It is also
in Our Biblical Heritage by Nogah Hareuveni, founder of Neot
inhabit, nor plant for others to eat, for as the days of a tree are the days
called the “Judas tree.” This name may come from a misunderstanding of
Kedumim. These and other books are on sale in the Visitor’s
Another water-loving plant, the reed (157) (הנק kaneh, related to the
of My people.” (Isaiah 65:21-22) The sages added: “As the days of a tree
the French arbre de Judée (tree of Judea), rather than from any likelihood
Center gift shop at a special discount price.
English “cane”), was particularly useful in ancient times. Its tall, flexible,
are the days of My people, like this sycomore that survives in the earth
that this was the tree on which Judas Iscariot hanged himself. Though
Once upon a time the trees went to find a king.
hollow stalk was ideal for making mats and fences and was sharpened into
for 600 years” (Bereshit Rabba 12, 6). As the sycomore can survive in the
common in the forests of the Judean Hills, the Mediterranean redbud is
knives and pens (often used by Torah scribes). According to tradition, the
earth even when buried and grow anew when conditions are right, so the
not particularly tall and not a very suitable gallows.
flutes used in the Temple were made from hollow reeds.
people of Israel will regenerate after centuries of exile.
The reed’s straight, evenly-ridged stalk also served as an early measuring
STATION 13: THE SHARON FOREST
device. Reeds functioned in ancient Egypt as “Nilometers,” important
You have walked through the area of Neot Kedumim planted to represent the
in measuring the depth of the river and projecting the extent of its
natural forest of the Sharon Plain, particularly the Tabor oaks (117), which
inundation. The Bible also speaks of “measuring reeds”: “The measuring
researchers believe predominated in the Sharon’s natural forests in biblical
reed in the man’s hand was six cubits long, plus one handbreadth for each
times. Along with the white broom (103), native of the sandy Sharon coast,
They came to the olive tree. they came to the fig tree.
The Biblical Landscape Reserve in Israel
cubit: so he measured the breadth of the building” (Ezekiel 40:5). Measure
are bulbs and annuals indigenous to the hilly regions of the Sharon.
they came to the grapevine - and all refused the kingship. In Honor of the Fifth President of Israel, Yitzhak Navon
your height in both ancient and modern units on the “measuring reed”
You may have noticed some strange texts along the way! This section
What does the name Neot Kedumim mean?
of the trail is part of the wedding trail that connects the Pool of the
Then they came to the thorny atad tree, who
Neot תואנ means pasture or places of beauty (as in Psalm 23, "He
responded: “If you really mean to anoint me as
As you continue on from the measuring reed, you enter Neot Kedumim’s
Sycomores with the Pool of Solomon in the Dale of the Song of Songs.
makes me lie down in green pastures.”) Kedumim םימודק, ancient,
your king, then come and take shelter in my shade;
Dale of the Song of Songs, the Bible’s celebrated love poem. Rich in
In case the groom forgot the ring, he’s reminded here that the Babylonian
contains the Hebrew roots that also indicates forward movement in
if not, fire shall issue from the atad and consume
references to Israel’s nature, the Song of Songs is also fertile ground for
Talmud permits betrothals to be formalized with the giving of an acorn,
time, and express our hope of future growth from past roots.
allegory, notably the traditional interpretation that the lovers symbolize
a pomegranate, or a walnut, provided the value of each is at least a pruta,
the smallest currency of the time – about a penny. (Tractate Kiddushin 47a)
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