By Alon Tal
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Extra resources for All the Trees of the Forest: Israel’s Woodlands from the Bible to the Present
This is the same tree that became immortalized when it contributed the briars for Jesus’ crown of thorns. ≥≠ As the biblical narratives span many centuries, it is also possible that plant titles were forgotten or changed, or that new nicknames evolved. The father of modern Zionism, Theodore Herzl, suffered the embarrassing fate of tree misclassiﬁcation. On November 28, 1898, during his one trip to Palestine, he planted a symbolic sapling in Motza outside Jerusalem. Herzl was told that he was planting a cedar and cheerfully recorded the event in his diary.
You can ﬁnd both ‘righteous and evil species’ each with a taste and a smell of its own. . The carob is honest and innocent, weak and thin, whose spirit suffers constantly, as it gets by frugally from Sabbath to Sabbath. . ’’≤∞ Rabbis continued to wax hyperbolic about the astonishing qualities of Israel’s trees. ’ ’’≤≥ Trees were to be treasured as a source of life and a source of wonder. Harvesting timber was allowed when required. But fruit trees enjoyed a special status; their wood could only be hewn if it held a higher market value than its produce.
Professionals with considerable understanding of the technical details of planting, they all shared an unspoken, ideological impulse or metaphysical reverence for the sacred nature of their commission. Coming from a fecund island of gardens and horticulture, many British bureaucrats had an afﬁnity for green, shaded landscapes. ’’∞∏ In 1920 it seemed that, for the foreseeable future, Palestine would remain an agrarian economy and that it was hemorrhaging soil. The data were not par- A Mandate for Trees 35 ticularly precise, but according to internal British statistics the equivalent of two thousand hectares of agricultural soil were washed off Palestine’s lands each year into the Mediterranean.