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October 4, 2012October 4, 2012  0 comments  Geography

If you want to experience Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, in all its glory and biblical meaning, go no farther than to Neot Kedumim, Israel's very special biblical landscape reserve, located 15 minutes outside of Jerusalem, close to Mod'in, in the Judean Hills.

 

" In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying. If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me... streams of living water will flow from within him" (John 7: 37-38)


Neot kedumim is a picturesque reconstructed biblical landscape reserve at the foothills of Jerusalem with breathtaking views over the Samarian hills on one side and the skyline of Tel Aviv on the other side. Visitors can explore the natural setting of the land, the plants and trees, the water facilities and the agricultural installations as they were at the time of the bible.

 

During the four species tour at Neot-Kedumim we meet the etrogim (Citrons), both small and large varieties, growing on their trees, with their wonderful citrus-y fragranced leaves We once had an etrog the size of a small watermelon that was in the Israel edition of the Guiness Book of World Records! The etrog, it turns out, is an oleh, an immigrant to Israel, possibly originating in India or Persia, but a veteran oleh that appears in the Mishna. The etrog is quite happy here, but only if we provide it with large quantities of water.

 

Next, we meet the hadas-myrtle. Unlike its neighbor the etrog, hadas is a hardy plant that can survive the long, dry summer without irrigation. Its leaves are green and shiny and fragrant even before the first rains. It may be this ability to withstand drought that gave rise to the myrtle's many folkloric associations: long life, prosperity, success. The Talmud (Brachot 57a) even says that if you dream about myrtle, your property will prosper, and, if you don't have property, you will inherit property.

 

Further down the trail is the arava-willow. Here are both the familiar red-stemmed, long-leafed variety, and a curious tree that has both long and round leaves on the same branch. This is also a kind of arava that is called "khilfa-gila" in the Talmud (Sukka 33b-34a)-khilfa (knife)-gila (round) indicating the two shapes of the leaves. Like the etrog, the willow is an extremely thirsty plant that wilts quickly in the absence of water.

 

Finally, we meet the lulav, the inner, unopened frond of the date palm, nestling in the center (lev) of the tree. The date palm is indigenous to Israel's desert areas, but only where there is water underground-oases. Whether you're a modern Bedouin or an ancient Israelite wanderer, the place to camp in the desert is under the date palms. One of the Israelites' first encampments, in fact, was an oasis called "Elim," where according to the bible there were "twelve springs of water and seventy date palms" (Numbers 33:9).

 

You may have noticed that water has been a subtext of this very brief Four Species tour. Three of the four-etrog (Citron), willow, and date palm-are highly dependent on a constant supply of water. One, the myrtle, can survive long periods of drought. Water is in fact an important theme of Sukkot, the time when we begin praying for the first winter rains without which there is no life here in Israel. According to the Mishna (Rosh Hashana 1, 2), "On the hag [Sukkot], judgment is passed in respect to rain." And the Four Species themselves are living representatives of our pleas for water-for life. Like the etrog, willow, and date palm, we need water to survive. But, if the rains don't come, we would like to survive anyway, like the myrtle. Indeed, the Talmud (Ta'anit 2b) designates the Four Species as "advocates" for water.

 

And in this context the words of Jesus when he visited the Temple at Sukkot- the Feast of Tabernacles, are becoming even more meaningful.

 

Visiting Neot Kedumim

Neot Kedumim is located off of Route 443, approximately 20 minutes from Jerusalem, 5 minutes south of Mod'in, in the Judean Hills. Visitors that wish can also arrange, in advance, to plant a tree.

Telephone: + 972 (0)8 -9770782
tourism@neot-kedumim.org.il

Website: www.n-k.org.il

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