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A Visit to Neot Kedumim

C.B. Gavant

Have you ever wondered what Eretz Yisrael looked like in the days of the Avos and Imahos? Did you ever try to guess what Avraham’s eishel tree looked like, or how the chachamim knew which fruit was an esrog? To us city slickers, every tree and plant can look pretty much the same — how do we know which ones are unique to Eretz Yisrael? Wonder no more! In Neot Kedumim, the only biblical nature reserve in the world, 180 different kinds of plants and trees, all of them mentioned in Tanach, are on display.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Neot Kedumim, built forty-five years ago on a 600-acre plot of land halfway between Yerushalayim and Tel Aviv, is a stunning area that sees thousands of tourists every year. Reclaimed from barren hills by its founder, Nogah Hareuveni, the nature reserve brings the past to life with its sunny trails and lush greenery.

Our first stop today is a tent with four open sides, in imitation of the tent of Avraham Avinu. Near the tent is a small tree, called a tamarisk, known in popular Hebrew as the eishel. The tamarisk tree, explains our guide, has a special property that allows it to draw the salt out of the earth and cool the air beneath its shade about ten degrees. For this reason, the tamarisk is believed to be the eishel that Avraham planted — wouldn’t you want to sit in the shade of this tree on a scorching hot day?

Moving on a bit, we come to an ancient oil press, where olives were once squeezed for oil. Some of the olive trees in Neot Kedumim are over two hundred years old, having been transplanted there from other regions in Eretz Yisrael. Our tour guide explains how in ancient times, olives were placed on the round basin and crushed with the huge stone, to extract the pure oil used for eating, lighting Shabbos candles, and for the menorah in the Beis HaMikdash.

A short distance away is a threshing floor, where replicas of ancient plowing and planting tools can be seen. After the first rains, the farmers would prepare their fields for the next year’s harvest, using these tools to plow up the earth and plant the wheat and barley, all the while davening that the coming year would be a fruitful one.

 

 

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