The Judean Date Palm is Coming Back
When you think of the Middle East you mostly think of it as desert. And that is true, mostly it is that. But there was a time it was different landscape. Dry, yes, but more green than you might have thought. There are the famed cedars of Lebanon – once a deep forest there. And in Gilgamesh, probably the oldest complete epic story we have, which is from Sumer and Babylonia in modern day Iraq it speaks of vast forests being cut down. You wouldn’t have that in a story unless there were once trees that were standing.
Among these forests was the Judean date palm. It was both a wild and cultivated tree in biblical times and would have been a welcome sight for any travelers with the promise of fruit and shade at the very sight of one. The tree was a symbol of good fortune and even the famed King David named his daughter, Tamar, after the tree – Tamar being the Hebrew name for the date palm.
Once the Romans started their conquest of the area by destroying the Hebrew kingdom starting in 70 AD they started cutting down the palms for much needed wood and by 500 AD the Judean date palm was seemingly extinct and it only continued on in legend.
In the 1960’s Herod the Greats palace in Israel was excavated and the archeologists found a stockpile of seeds in a clay jar that were about 2000 years old. These seeds sat in a drawer in Bar-Ilan University until 2005 when the botanical researcher Elaine Solowey decided to try to re-vivify them. And, amazingly, it worked. An extinct tree came back to life and the tree – named Methuselah- bore his first flower in 2011 and in 2015 the pollen from a wild datepalm was introduced to Methuselah and the first dates have shown their brown skins to the world.
Solowey continues to work with palms and has grown other date palms from ancient seeds found in archeological sites around the Dead Sea, as well. “I’m trying to figure out how to plant an ancient date grove,” she says. And if she can reach her magical green thumb back into time and succeed in bringing forth a modern grove of ancient trees, imagine what it might mean to have a grove, the whisperings of a forest, back in a land that once had a wealth of them.
I love this story and to me it stands on its own and it also stands for what we are trying to do with Primal Derma. We are trying to reach back to revive an ancient tradition that was nearly forgotten that once had a place in the world. A good place. And it was killed off and forgotten in a way. And now in coming back, which isn’t a sure thing about the scale of its coming back, it is still in the early days. But even more than that…the fruit that is growing in a protected little square in Israel isn’t the ancient fruit exactly. It is a cross of an ancient fruit and something more modern.
There is no pure past to return to but the old ways might inform how we might proceed.
Thank you for watering this tender sapling of a skincare company and putting its fruits on your skin!