Ein Gedi greenhouse
Ein Gedi greenhouse
In the greenhouse in front of you are the ancient perfume plants of the Land of Israel, among them the myrrh, the balsam, the cinnamon and the frankincense, which were part of the ingredients of the incense and holy anointing in the Temple. According to the tradition of the Sages, the queen of Sheba brought them to King Solomon, and he planted them in Ein Gedi. It is possible that these are the beds of perfume that the wife refers to, in the Song of Songs.
Balsam/Afarsemon (Commiphora gileadensis)
“Kormim (winegrowers) this means balsam gathers from Ein-Gedi to Ramah…” (Babylonian Talmud, Shabbath 26a)
The Balsam was the most expensive perfume during the Mishna and Talmudic period, parallel the Roman-Byzantine period. It grew up in Ein Gedi and Jericho and even became a Jewish symbol.
The plant is mentioned many times in Sage literature and in the writings of the Greeks and Romans. Today it is identified with Commiphora gileadensis, a perfume bush that grows in southern Arabia, the former kingdom of Sheba. According to Sages, it was the Queen of Sheba who brought it as a gift to King Solomon. A fragment of a pottery jug from the time of King Solomon found in Jerusalem, on which is written the word “Onicha”, (one of the components of the incense) in an ancient Arabian script, confirms the connection between the kingdom of Solomon and the kingdom of Sheba.
In contrast to the resin of other perfume plants, such as myrrh and frankincense, which crystallizes into lumps, balsam resin is liquid and volatile and is therefore also called “nataf” (drip) in the Bible. Producing the perfume was a specialty that was known only to Ein Gedi growers. On the mosaic floor of the ancient synagogue in Ein Gedi, an inscription was discovered with a curse: “Cursed is the man who reveals the secret of the reading.”
The nectar was one of the ingredients of the incense and anointing oil in Solomon’s Temple. The pure sap was very expensive and was only intended for the members of the aristocracy. The perfume mixed with oil was cheaper. It is said about the girls of Jerusalem that they would place a rooster’s goitre stuffed with the oil between the heel and the shoe, and when they saw a group of guys, they would knock on it and the perfume would spread in the air. (Lamentation, 4:15).
In the seventh century, the plant were abandoned and it disappeared from the land of Israel. It was restored to it only in the last decades.
Myrrh (Commiphora Myrrha)
“…and my hands dropped with myrrh, and my fingers with flowing myrrh, upon the handles of the bar”. (SonG of Songs, 5 5)
The myrrh perfume, also a very expensive perfume, is produced from several species of small thorny trees, with trifoliate leaves, belonging to the myrrh genus. The myrrh associated with the biblical myrrh is Commiphora myrrha which originates from Africa, Arab countries and eastern India, where it grows on rocky soil. It is not known whether it was grown in the biblical period in Israel or was brought there by the merchants by way of perfumes.
The extraction of the resin is carried out by injuring the bark of the tree in many cuts that reach up to the tubes transporting the sap, which causes the resin to flow out. Myrrh resin is waxy, it hardens quickly, and its color is opaque or transparent yellow. Over time it becomes dark and white streaks appear in it.
The Myrrh is mentioned in the Bible many times. It is the first perfume among the perfumes for preparing “the anointing oil – the holy oil, in which the vessels of the temple were consecrated. In the Song of Songs, the bride is perfumed with it: In the Book of Esther it is said that the virgins who came to the contest to choose the queen for King Ahasuerus, were first immersed in myrrh oil for six months. The resin was dissolved in ancient times with oil and not with alcohol as is customary today.
Another interesting plant in the greenhouse is the Myrrh which comes from Ethiopia and Yemen. The Myrre is mentioned in the Bible many times. It is the first perfume among the perfumes for preparing “the anointing oil – the holy oil, in which the vessels of the temple were consecrated. In the Song of Songs, the bride is perfumed with it and In the Book of Esther it is said that the virgins who came to the contest to choose the queen for King Ahasuerus, were first immersed in myrrh oil for six months.
“…Spikenard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon, with all trees of frankincense…”. (Song of Songs 4 14)
Cinnamon is an evergreen tree from the Lauraceae family, the family of the Sweet Bay. Its origin is from Ceylon, which is today’s Sri Lanka. In the past it was grown in Egypt, and it is possible that it came to Israel from there or with the merchants in the
Incense trade route. The Incense Trade Route was an ancient network of major land and sea trading routes linking the Mediterranean world with eastern and southern sources of incense, spices and other luxury goods.
The trunk bark of the cinnamon tree is a sweet spice that has been used for food and medicine for thousands of years. In the Bible it is mentioned as a perfume that was one of the ingredients of the holy ointment with which the vessels of the temple were anointed
the temple vessels were anointed. In the book Song of Songs, it is one of the perfumes simulating the scent of the beloved.