As readers will know, Dates were one of the Seven Species in ancient Israel:
The Seven Species (Shivat Haminim in Hebrew) are the seven types of fruits and grains named in the Torah (Deuteronomy 8:8) as the main produce of the land of Israel. In ancient times these foods were staples of the Israelite diet. They were also important in the ancient Jewish religion because one of the Temple tithes derived from these seven foods. The tithe was called the bikkurim, which meant “first fruits.”
Today the seven species are still important agricultural items in modern Israel but they no longer dominate the produce of the country as they once did. On the holiday of Tu B’Shvat it has become traditional for Jews to eat from the seven species.
Deuteronomy 8:8 tells us that Israel was “a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil olives and date honey.”
The biblical verse does not actually mention palm dates but instead uses the word “d’vash” as the seventh species, which literally translates to honey. In ancient times the palm date was often made into a form of honey by mashing the dates and cooking them with water until they thickened into a syrup. It is generally thought that when the Torah mentions “honey” it is usually referring to palm date honey and not the honey produced by bees.
This is why dates were included in the seven species instead of bee honey.
Australia has very few locally grown dates. The main date farm, Gurra Downs in South Australia, provides the following facts:
- Global date production is about 5.4 million metric tonne of fruit per year.
- The five largest producers are Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iraq – accounting for about 70% of total production.
- Approximately 93% of dates harvested are consumed within the country of origin.
- The date palm is a traditional crop in the old world and in recent decades has gained popularity. It is now grown in 40 countries including the USA, South Africa and more recently Australia.
- Australia imports over 5000 tonne of date fruit per year. 85% of this is low quality cooking or manufacturing grade.
- Australia currently has less than 50 hectares of mature fruit bearing date palms
This means that dates eaten in Australia are mostly imported. Iraq used to be the main date-growing country, but now that it has descended into an abyss of barbarity, it produces little except dead bodies. Mind you, we can’t just blame ISIS, as this 2011 article illustrates:
Standing in the middle of what was once a date palm oasis overlooking the Tigris River, Salim Abdulla al-Salim sees little hope in Iraq‘s quest to relive its heyday as the world’s leading producer of dates.
Once, before its 1980s war with Iran, Iraq had 30 million date palms producing 1 million tonnes of dates annually.
But Saddam Hussein’s military campaigns and decades of neglect savaged the industry, cutting the number of trees in half and yearly production to 420,000 tonnes.
“The industry is not viable any more. The revenues don’t cover the money spent on preparing the palms for production,”
said Salim, a date farmer with 6,000 trees.
Iraq, which relies on its vast oil and gas fields for most of its economy, now ranks only 7th among world date producers, according to the Agriculture Ministry’s date palm board.
But the ministry has an ambitious $80 million plan to rebuild the date palm inventory up to 40 million trees in 10 years and to introduce more marketable varieties.
Ninety percent of Iraq‘s production is one variety of date, the Zehdi. The ministry is expanding the menu to include the Hillawi, Khadrawi, Sayer, Maktoom, Derrie, Ashrasi and Barhee varieties.
In the 1970s Iraq sent 700,000 tonnes of dates abroad each year but last year exported only 200,000 tonnes…
Domestically, Iraq consumes about 100,000 tonnes yearly, and farmers in a depressed industry grumble about imports of foreign dates.
Iraqi date palms produced 150-200 kg (330-440 pounds) per tree in the 1990s, when water quality, fertilizers, pollination and pest control were better. Output is now down to just 50 kg, according to Salim.
Agriculture contributes about 10.2 percent to gross domestic product… a relatively small slice of an emerging economy dominated by oil.
One place that does export dates to Australia is Israel. Gwen Ackerman writes in Medjool Dates From Israel Wastewater Proving Favorite of Foodies:
Benjamin Elkasslasy’s high-tech tending of the Medjool date palms on Israel’s Kibbutz Gilgal produced harvests he could only dream of when he started managing this plantation in 1989.
The recycling of wastewater has been instrumental to the flourishing of Israeli date crops, allowing Israel to claim 60 percent of the global Medjool market today from just a toehold in the 1980s.
That formula may be hitting its limits. This precious source of water is now just enough to water the current crop and further expansion will have to wait for a desalination system to kick in.
To ensure no drop is wasted, plantations use sensors that monitor root-absorption, and research and development centers experiment with different grades of water and dwarfing trees.
While the Medjool makes up less than 1 percent of the 7.9 million ton global date market — Egypt and Iran are top producers of dates overall — it’s the chief variety among the 32,000 tons of dates grown in Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank each year.
Part of its success owes to a re-branding of the fruit by marketers including Hadiklaim, the Israeli date growers’ cooperative, as an exotic delicacy… Foodies around the world have added the Medjool to their shopping lists.
Last year, Israeli farmers produced 21,570 tons of Medjools, up 17-fold from 1990, according to Hadiklaim. …Overall, the volume of Israel’s date exports jumped 23 percent last year to 247 million shekels ($70 million), reaching 27 countries across five continents.
With Israel’s annual rainfall averaging only 1.2 billion cubic meters… better ways to irrigate crops have always been a priority.
Innovation, starting with the Netafim Irrigation Co.’s development of a drip irrigation system 50 years ago, has contributed to Israel’s success with the Medjool, says Larry Duane Geohring, an agricultural researcher at Cornell University.
The United Nations has identified Israel as a leader in wastewater recycling. Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, says Israel recycles 75 percent of its waste-water, followed by Spain at 12 percent.
With potable water so scarce in Israel, the idea of using treated sewage water started to take hold 30 years ago, though it took time to build acceptance for the idea…
Since 2000, the Israeli government has spent 2 billion shekels on waste-water treatment infrastructure, with agricultural and other groups contributing an additional 1 billion shekels, according to the Finance Ministry.
Now, further investment is necessary to supplement existing water sources with desalination systems.
“Today we are nearly using all the water and almost can’t plant any more trees,”
said Chaim Oren, a consultant to date and fig growers with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Methinks there’s a certain resentment by surrounding countries that Israel, by the use of innovation, has successfully overcome the problems of water shortages to produce .a flourishing date industry. Maybe that’s why the Israel-haters have specifically targetted Israeli dates in their racist BDS campaigns:
BOYCOTT ISRAELI DATES 2012
- Over 50% of the worlds Medjool dates are produced in Israel.
- 60% of Israeli dates are grown on illegal settlement plantations in the Jordan Valley.
- Israeli profits from dates in 2011 = $265 million
If you buy a Medjool date, there’s a strong possibility that it is from an illegal settlement – grown on stolen land.
Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land have been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. Nearly half of the settlements in the Jordan Valley grow dates, its their most profitable crop, and contributes significantly to their economic viability. If you oppose the settlements target their dates.
Picking of the dates is hard work, Israeli settlers bring in low payed Palestinian labourers to do this back breaking work. During the pruning season, workers are dropped on the date palm trees by a hoisting crane at 5 in the morning, left perched on palms that soar to heights of 12 metres – a 4 storey building, left there swaying in the wind for up to 8 hours without even a toilet break, with no means to come down until the crane returns at the end of the day, the workers cling to the tree with one arm and work with the other to meet their quota. If they fall behind they will lose their jobs.
The Israelis prefer to employ children – even issuing them official work permits, as they can climb trees faster, work for less and it’s easier to cheat and humiliate them. Out of desperate poverty Palestinian families are forced to take their children out of school and hand them over to the settlers to work for a pittance.
After a sustained global boycott campaign Israels largest agricultural exporter Agrexco went in to liquidation in 2011.
Hadiklaim, the Israeli Date Growers Cooperative, which includes illegal settler plantations in the Jordan Valley, sells 70% of all Israeli dates. Its brand names include Jordan River, King Solomon, Kalahari, Karsten Farms, Tamara Barhi Dates, Desert Diamond, Rapunzel, Bomaja, Shams and Delilah. They also supply Israeli dates to supermarkets who market them under their own brand…. Sometimes they are labelled “produced in the West Bank”, remember these are not Palestinian dates. Hadiklaim also sells South African dates (Karsten Farms), the profits still go to Israel so must be boycotted.
Mehadrin, Israel’s largest fresh produce exporter, last year boasted of doubling their Medjoul date sales sighting strong demand in Ramadan! Sometimes their packaging states “Grown by Palestinian Farmers”, this refers to Palestinian ‘slave’ labourers found on Israeli plantations.
In 2005 Palestinian civil society initiated a call for people of conscience around the world to Boycott, Divest and Sanction Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. The call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian organisations representing all aspects of society including farmers.
Plea From Palestine
Activists visiting the Palestinian village of Fasayl in the Jordan Valley discovered that villagers are slowly being forced off their land by the Israeli army for settlement expansion. The only livelihood left open to them is to work for Israeli settlements. The Palestinians whose land had been stolen and were forced to work for Agrexco (including 2 children under the age of 12), in order to feed their families – they had a message for the activists, a plea for anyone who would listen – take action against the companies that support Israeli apartheid. What excuse is left for us not to boycott Israel?
With Ramadan rapidly approaching we need your help to get the message out to our people – Do Not Buy Israeli Dates.
Israel’s Hadiklaim cooperative which includes illegal settler plantation has struck a deal with Kartsen Farms in South Africa to market its dates in Europe, in this way the Israeli date company can supply dates through out the year, even when the Israeli date season is gone. Yes, whilst the dates are South African, but the profits still go to Israel, to those illegal settlement plantations, so please boycott them.
In 2014 Friends of Al-Aqsa posted:
On Friday 29 May we need your help to launch Check the Label – Boycott Israeli Dates campaign for the sixth year. You can help by:
- ordering leaflets to distribute after Jummah Salah on 29 May
- Signing up to thunderclap to publicly pledge you will not buy dates from Israel, West Bank or the Jordan Valley.
- putting up posters on mosque notice boards
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name, address and contact number, and let her know the number of leaflets and poster you need
We often check the ingredients on food packaging to decide if foods are good for our health and if they are halal. This campaign extends the concept to ‘check the label’ to ensure the dates we eat during
Ramadhan are good for our body and soul!
Every year, Israel exports millions of pounds worth of dates to the world, which many people unknowingly buy and use to break their fasts. These dates are grown in illegal settlements in the West Bank and the Jordan Valley, on land that has been stolen from Palestinians. By buying these dates, we are in fact helping Israel to continue its occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Ramadan is a time of year when we remember those who are less fortunate than ourselves. It is a time we feed ourselves spiritually. Therefore it would be an affront if at such a time we helped support oppression buy buying these dates.
It’s of great concern that many churches are buying into this hate-filled and dishonest campaign. See http://jewsdownunder.com/2015/05/29/aussie-churches-spreading-lies/
In their May 5 2015 rant,
“don’t buy into the occupation – join campaign against Israeli settlement goods in Australia”,
… We have heard the cry of Palestinian Christians asking the international community to join boycott and divestment campaigns. We have seen Churches internationally respond to the request. We have seen many Jewish people support these nonviolent economic strategies. We believe, with deep conviction, that the products made in the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank represent a serious and blatant disregard for Palestinian human rights, and must be opposed.
We have therefore decided that PIEN will join others in responding with more than words, and this year we will focus our efforts on campaigning for businesses in Australia to stop selling settlement goods, beginning with dates.
CALL TO ACTION: Help us find dates being sold from illegal Israeli settlements
PIEN’s first campaign will focus on dates sold in Australia from Israeli settlements. We’ve identified one importer, and are negotiating directly with them to stop these imports…
Researching this article, I found out some interesting facts about dates; here are just 4:
1. When the Torah mentions “honey” it is usually referring to palm date honey and not the honey produced by bees
2. There is a date farm , Gurra Downs, in South Australia.
3. There are numerous types of dates besides the Medjool – the Zehdi, Hillawi, Khadrawi, Sayer, Maktoom, Derrie, Ashrasi and Barhee varieties.
4. Australia currently has less than 50 hectares of mature fruit bearing date palms
But one fact we are all aware of is that BDS is a racist, antisemitic organisation whose campaigns aim to delegitimise Israel.