A famous Muslim hadith says:
“The last hour will not come unless Muslims fight against the Jews, and the Muslims would murder them until the Jews would hide behind a rock or trees, and a stone would say: Muslim, the servant of Allah; there is a Jew behind him; come and get him, but the tree Gharqad wouldn’t know because it is the tree for the Jews.
The Jews planted Gharqad trees in the occupied territories. They know Islam is correct and will face off against Muslims at the end of the day. That’s why Gharqad trees are found throughout Israel.
ISRAEL21c is pleased to share the top 10 most exceptional trees in Israel with an Israeli expert in ancient trees.
Yaakov Shkolnik is a tree expert. He was raised among the trees of Kibbutz Malkiya and worked as a guide for the Society for the Protection of Nature Israel. He recently wrote the book 101 Amazing Trees in Israel, which he wrote for Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael Jewish National Fund (KKLJNF).
Shkolnik, along with Sohil Zidan (KKL-JNF’s fruit grove and olive expert) and chief ecologist Yoram Goldring, has been monitoring, mapping, and measuring Israel’s 200 oldest trees for the past eighteen years.
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ISRAEL21c asked Shkolnik 10 notable old trees from the book (which can only be found in Hebrew) to share his selections with our readers. These are his selections and the photos he took.
1. Kermes oaks at Mount Hermon, Golan Heights
Shkolnik says that while you can find common oaks in Israel in many places, the best ones are found in Har Habetarim. This is the spot where God promised Abraham that his descendants, including Muslims, would inherit the land.
These 20 trees are enormous. Common oak trees look more like bushes than natural oak, but they are real trees with strong trunks that measure nearly six meters (19.6 ft) in diameter. It is home to the Place of Beloved Abraham, a small structure where Jews used to pray for 16 centuries. However, it is now difficult to reach because it is in a military zone.
2. Syrian junipers at Mount Hermon, Golan Heights
You can’t tell how old Israeli trees are as some grow faster and others live longer. The three trees closest to Birket Ram (a volcanic lake on Mount Hermon’s slope) on the way to Neve Ativ are among the oldest in Israel, I’m sure.
Shkolnik claims that this trio of junipers doesn’t seem so tall. They grow slower in frigid winters and arid summers. These adverse conditions are good news because they make these trees’ wood extremely strong and durable.
3. Atlantic pistachio in Kadesh Valley, Upper Galilee
This enormous tree is located near Kibbutz Malikyah, close to Shkolnik. It can shelter around 70 to 80 people, and KKL built picnic tables beneath it. You can see the true beauty of its branches in winter when it is naked. About 30-40 others surround it, but none are as significant.
4. Black mulberry, Mount Meron, Upper Galilee
Shkolnik claims that this tree produces the best-tasting fruit in the entire world. It was planted in the early 19th-century by Rabbi Yisrael. Rabbi Yisrael Beck, who had a printing company in Safed, obtained land in Mount Meron and was perhaps the first modern Jewish farmer. This tree produces excellent fruit in summer. It is located in a nature reserve, but you can still pick it up.
5. Olive tree at Ein al-Asad, Mount Meron, Upper Galilee
“One tree is unique and lives in an ancient grove on Mount Meron, between two Druze villages. There is a road that runs along the slope with many trees. However, this one is only seven meters in circumference [23 feet] and still bears fruit!
6. Atlantic pistachio, Beit Netofa Vale, Lower Galilee
This tree is found at the northern end of this cultivated valley. It grows harmoniously from a pile made of stones. However, it does not bear any fruit. The Palestine Exploration Fund conducted a survey of Palestine in the 1870s and included this tree. It’s also known as el-Burma in Arabic. Older residents said this tree was the best place to meet if people were looking to reconcile after a fight.
7. Sycamore in Netanya
This tree is a famous landmark with a diameter of over 12 meters (39 feet). It’s now a playground for children. People used to stop at the tree when they were walking from Jaffa north to the north. There was once an inn nearby. Charles Wilson, an English traveler who was part of the Palestine Exploration Fund, wrote Picturesque Palestine in 1873. He also took a photo of the tree for the book. It was impressive and extensive back then.
Netanya placed a mosaic in front of the tree and created a small park.
8. Petah Tikva, Lemon-scented Eucalyptus (gum tree),
Although Israel is home to many eucalyptus plants, they are not indigenous. They were imported from Australia by KKLJNF. Most of them are river red varieties, Shkolnik explains.
The lemon-scented gum is rare in this area. The leaves are yellowish-yellow and have a smooth, yellowish trunk. Two trees were planted in Petah Tikva during the 19th century. However, one of them was attacked by locusts and was destroyed. Two [newer] trees are located in the city, not far from Beilinson Hospital.
9. Spiraled (twisted) acacia near Sde Boker, Negev
The Negev Desert’s lonely tree is almost like an oasis. Many tourists to Sde Boker plan to enjoy a picnic under this tree. It is located in a small wadi, Nahal Noked. However, people refer to it as the ‘Tree Wadi.’ Acacia fruit is significant for desert deer. We have never seen any fruit from this tree, and it’s unclear why.
10. Doum palms (gingerbread tree) in Ein Evrona, Arava Valley
Doum is an Arabic term for a palm that grows in Eastern Africa’s rivers and produces an edible date type. Shkolnik noticed the group of doum palms that grows just north from Eilat in a protected nature reserve. They are the most northern wild doum palms anywhere in the world.
“Each trunk can be divided into two, and sometimes the two can also be divided in half. The tree expert said that it is scarce.