L-R: Dr. Sarah Sallon, Dr. Elaine Solowey, National President Marcie
On November 24, 2011, a ceremony was
held on Kibbutz Ketura to plant the famous date palm “Methuselah”. The ceremony
was attended by distinguished guests from Israel and abroad, including Lord
David Wolfson and Marcie Natan, the National President of Hadassah, the Women's
Zionist Organization of America. The tree was planted in the Arava Institute’s
Daniel Fischel and Sylvia Neil Family Sustainable Agriculture and Renewable
Energy Research and Visitors' Park.
During Yigal Yadin's excavations of
Masada in the mid-1960's, ancient date seeds (Phoenix dactylifera L.)
were discovered beneath rubble at the Northern Palace approach. The Judean
Date, prized in antiquity for its taste, size and medicinal properties had been
extinct for centuries.
In 2005, in a unique experiment to
reintroduce extinct medicinal plants and trees once found in ancient Israel, Dr.
Sarah Sallon, Director and Founder of Hadassah`s Natural Medicine Research
Center, and Dr. Elaine Solowey, Director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture
at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies succeeded in germinating one of
these ancient date seeds. Radiocarbon dating indicates that the seed was at
least 2,000 years old. So far as has been determined, this is the oldest seed
that has been successfully germinated, surpassing a 1,300 year old sacred lotus
(Nelumbo nucifera) seed.
This remarkable achievement
created great interest world-wide, and the experiment was written up in the
prestigious journal, ‘Science’ in 2008. For the past years, “Methuselah”
has been kept in a quarantine site by Dr. Solowey’s Center for Sustainable
Agriculture at the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, to protect it
from possible infection from modern plants. This year, the tree was determined
healthy, strong and ready to be moved to a permanent place in the Research and
where it can be viewed by the public.