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Planting Methuselah

Press Release

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 Visitors’ Park, where it can be viewed by the public.

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