Date tree in Kibbutz Ketura 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy of Hadassah)
A date tree grown from the oldest viable seed in the world to be sprouted was
planted Thursday at Kibbutz Ketura in the Arava, for therapeutic
The tree, now 2.5-meters tall, was grown from a 2,000-year-old seed
that archeologists found at a Masada dig in the 1960s. A team of researchers
sprouted it, and it was initially planted in a secret location so it would not
Now it is hoped that the plant, which is of a rare species,
will produce fruit that could be used for medicinal purposes and for
Attending Thursday’s tree-planting ceremony were Hadassah Women’s
Zionist Organization of America president Marcie Nathan and Lord David Wolfson
of England, among other guests.
A few years ago, Dr. Sarah Sallon, an
expert in natural medicine at the Hadassah Medical Organization, heard a rumor
that Bar-Ilan University botany Prof. Mordechai Kislev had the “hibernating
seeds” that had been found during the archeological dig.
some and transferred them to Dr. Elaine Solway of the Arava Institute for
Environmental Studies at Ketura. The one planted Thursday was the first one that
Data about the date palm were published in the prestigious
When the sapling was 15 months old, it was tested using
a Carbon-14 radioactive isotope at the University of Zurich. The results showed
that the seed was from the period of the Roman siege of Masada two millennia
Genetic differences were found between the ancient date and modern
ones. The strain was identified with the Judean Kingdom and depicted on Roman
coins after the failure of the rebellion against the Romans. The species was
known then to have therapeutic qualities and a delicious taste, but it
disappeared from the land.
“We must renew our familiarity with the
ancient plants that once grew in the region and investigate them scientifically
to determine their characteristics. As Hadassah is well known for its
development of modern medical technology, it is also promoting desire to
discover ancient medical treatments,” Sallon said.