Glimpses of Israel - A Good Land

by Joseph Hunting

When Israel was about to enter the Land of Promise after forty years in the Wilderness Moses promised them: "The Lord your God brings you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills, a land of wheat and barley and vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey" (Deuteronomy 8:7-8).

Among the fruits listed there is one omission that the modern state of Israel sought to rectify: dates.

Sure enough, when Israel was reborn as a state in 1948, where were the date palms? The only dates grown in the Middle East were in Arab countries which would not trade with Israel.

There is a saying: "All's fair in love and war" and the Arab states were still technically at war with Israel. During my first visit to Eilat thirty years ago an Israeli told me how Israel acquired its flourishing date industry, then in its infancy. The story went like this: "A nondescript tramp steamer loaded Iraqi date palms ostensibly destined for Italy. On its voyage it developed a severe attack of asthma in one of its boilers and had to put into Haifa for repairs. In order to give workmen room to move, the deck cargo of date palms was off-loaded temporarily. As this delay was costing money, as soon as the asthmatic boiler was pronounced fit and well, the captain resumed his journey without taking on board the off-loaded Iraqi date palms which were duly quarantined and then given Israeli citizenship."

Today dates grown in Israel take their place among the good produce Moses promised their forefathers, together with bananas, avocados, citrus varieties and mangoes, to mention but a few that are grown on a comparatively large scale.