Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County Hosts: A Jurassic Park Agricultural Miracle in Israel

 What does a 2,000-year-old date taste like?

Hear from scientists who coaxed a biblical Judean date palm to bear fruit

In September, Israeli scientists from the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies and Hadassah Medical Center traveled back in time two millennia, becoming the first people to sample dates from trees extinct since the biblical period.

Dr. Elaine Solowey, director of the Center for Sustainable Agriculture of the Arava Institute, and Dr. Sarah Sallon, director of the Louis L. Borick Natural Medicine Research Center of Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem, harvested ancient dates in the culmination of an ambitious, decades-long experiment to raise the biblical-era date palm, Phoenix dactylifera, from the dead.

On January 26, Dr. Solowey and David Lehrer, executive director of the Arava Institute, will tell this miraculous story live on Zoom.

The program, open to the community free of charge, is hosted by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County (Conn.) in partnership with the Arava Institute, the Consulate General of Israel to New England, and more than 30 Jewish federations across North America.

“I’ve been following the story of Dr. Solowey’s work on the Judean date palm for the past decade,” says Federation CEO David Weisberg, who will facilitate the conversation and who has a past professional relationship with the Arava Institute. “Bringing back a tree and its fruit from extinction is truly a real-life Jurassic Park story.”

The researchers believe that the dates were native to ancient Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula, and hybridized in the ancient Land of Israel. The Arava-Hadassah experiment seeks to rediscover the origins of the historic date-palm population and confirm the date seeds’ long-term durability, while shedding light on ancient cultivation techniques that nurtured this unique fruit and exploring potential relevance for modern date agronomy.

“The harvest of the biblical date palms brought years of innovative scientific research to fruition,” says Lehrer. “We proved that we can not only restore an ancient variety to the land but showed how scientific collaboration and academic partnership benefits all the people of the Middle East.”                                                                                                      [more]

Photo: Researchers Dr. Elaine Soloway of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies (left) with Dr. Sarah Sallon of Hadassah Medical Center, moments after picking the first harvest of dates | PHOTO CREDIT: MARCOS SCHONHOLZ

Program details:

A Jurassic Park Agricultural Miracle in Israel

Tuesday, Jan. 26, 12 noon

Open to the community free of charge

Registration: jewishphilanthropyct.org/datepalm