Usually all we hear in the news is “ain’t it awful” stories, yet I know from experience that life goes on during times of war, and that it is sometimes the little things that last.

So today I will tell two stories about the Date Palm that show hope is springing up in the most unusual places.

Date palms have an almost mystical meaning to those in the Middle East. They were one of the earliest plants cultivated by man, and fed both man and beast. It was used for medicine, and for nourishment. It’s wood was used for construction, it’s fronds for mats. It shaded houses and shorter citrus trees from the hot sun.
IraqTheModel explains:

The date is considered as a fruit and food and you can get many products from it such as vinegar, arak (the most famous local alcoholic drink in Iraq) and date honey (dibis) and the leaves of the palm has always been used in building cottages and furniture in the urban areas of Iraq.
Generally there’s a strong bond between Iraqis and date palms and there’s a saying that is believed to be one of Mohammed the prophet sayings that mention the date palm as being created from what was left of the ashes that Adam was created from, and the date palm was mentioned several times in the Koran.

The first story is from Masada, in Israel.

The date palm was one of the seven holy plants of the Jews in ancient times.

Both the Romans and the Jews used the date palm as the symbol of ancient Israel on their coins, but the ancient date palms no longer exist in Israel:

But the Judean date palm was destroyed by the time of the Crusades, and the palms growing in modern Israel were imported from California, belonging to species originating elsewhere in the Middle East.

Several years ago, archeologists who were investigating Herod’s palace/fortress in Masada found some date palm seeds. Some scientists at the Louis Borick Natural Medicine Research Center in Jerusalem asked for the seeds, knowing that other seeds, such as Arctic Lupine and Chinese Lotus, had germinated into plants. Carbon dating showed the seeds were 2000 years old. And one of the seeds managed to germinate a tree. PHOTOpalm These ancient palm dates were known for their health giving properties, and scientists hope it is a female tree that will produce fruit so they can plant more of the ancient palms.

So in a generation of so, if the world doesn’t blow up, we may see the ancient date palms of Israel growing again in their land.

A symbol of hope.

But there is a second story of date palm destruction and resurrection, this one more recent.

After Gulf war I, Saddam Hussein deliberately destroyed the palm orchards in areas that opposed him. The devestation was worse in the Shitte South, where he also drained the marshlands of the Marshland Arabs

“The near-total destruction of the Iraqi marshlands under the regime of Saddam Hussein was a major ecological and human disaster, robbing the Marsh Arabs of a centuries-old culture and way of life as well as food in the form of fish and that most crucial of natural resources – drinking water,” United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) executive director Klaus Toepfer said in a statement.

But after the liberation of Iraq, one of the successes was the restoration of those destroyed marshlands.

And many are trying to help.

One thousand years ago,, when Arabs settled in Spain, they brought along their date palms. And now, to restore the Basran orchards. Spanish scientist is raising funds to help replant using Spanish seedlings. It’s part of the Iraqi Marshlands Rehabilitation project.

So despite the daily reports of bombs and hatred, some people are planting the date palms of hope.


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket 

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