Half way between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Ne’ot Kedumim is a unique recreation of the physical setting of the Bible. Much more than just a nature reserve, it presents the landscapes that shaped the values of the Bible, and provided a rich vocabulary for expressing those values. At Ne’ot Kedumim, you can see for yourself the nature that surrounded and inspired the figures of Biblical times.
The prophet Amos was a dresser of Sycamore trees. The Sycamore is a member of the Fig family, producing fruit that is slightly smaller and less sweet than typical figs. Originally the fruit was pollinated by small wasps which burrowed into the flowers and laid their eggs inside them. But there came a time when the wasps disappeared, which meant that dressers had to manually drill holes in thousands of flower bulbs. This is what Amos did.
The word sycamore is derived from the Hebrew word “Shikmah”, to restore or rejuvenate. Its original trunk and branches grow twisted, but when the tree is cut, new limbs grow very straight, making them very useful for building.
The New Testament describes how, as Yeshua (Jesus) passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus the tax collector, who was very short, climbed a Sycamore tree in order to get a better view of the famous miracle worker. Bystanders were shocked when Yeshua called the much-hated man down so they could have lunch together.
After talking to Yeshua, the tax collector swore to pay back everyone he’d stolen from, four times. Zacchaeus, whose name means pure, climbed the sycamore tree, and after being with Jesus, he was rejuvenated.
The Ziziphus spina-christi, or Jujube tree, another Israeli native, is mentioned in the parable of the trees in Judges 9. Not as pretty or functional as other trees in the Bible, the Jujube is more like a bramble, producing small fruit with hard stones that can break teeth. Some say a Jujube was used to produce Yeshua’s crown of thorns before his execution.
The genus Salvia, or Moriah Sage plant, grows to look much like the Menorah candelabra, which once was the only source of light in God’s temple. Now the official symbol of Israel, the Menorah was lit daily by the priests, and accompanied by burning incense made from myrrh, possibly derived from the Moriah plant. In another interesting parallel, the Moriah’s fragrance is strongest when it’s in bright light.
Jeremiah 11:16 compares Israel to a thriving Olive tree, with fruit beautiful in form. The olive is green when unripe, and blackens when ripe. Its leaves are silver on one side, and dark green on the other. When sunlight hits the leaves, and the wind is blowing, they appear to shimmer.
Isaiah 11 talks about a shoot that would come forth from the root of Jesse. When an Olive tree trunk dies, shoots can come forth from the base to propagate new trees. In Hebrew, these are called netzer, a word that also can refer to someone from Nazareth, Yeshua’s home town. Such people are usually called Nazarenes, which is similar to Natzrim, the modern Hebrew word for Christians.
Later, in Isaiah 49, he describes Israel as being a light to the nations, to show the salvation of the Lord to those who are far off. If Israel is an olive tree, then we, as Christians, are shoots from that tree, not replacing it, but still part of it. This is why it’s so important to know about Israel, the tree from which we all grew.