Dates - one of the the 7 species of the Holy Land, is one of the first crops in the Dead Sea area.
The fields of the 'sons of light' at Qumran were found to have many date seeds in them, and the Medjool date was considered to be the finest date varieties at the time of Jesus.
Today, date groves cover about 600 acres in the regional council of "Megillot" - in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, and supply stable and substantial income to the area residents.
The Hebrew language has special words for the date: "Gdid" - date harvest, "Boser", "Bohal" and "Tsemel" - for the different stages of fruit ripeness.
The varieties named "Hiani" and "Barhi" are picked at the first stage called "Boser" / unripe. The rest of date fruit varieties are picked as they go ripe and start to dry, and the later they're picked - the sweeter and finer the fruit is.
The fruit is eaten fresh or dry, and is used to produce paste and concotion. The date tree stem is used to make date wine and sugar.
"The salt in the land gives the fruit special aroma and sweetness" - says Tsofi Vardi who is the agriculture and water coordinator for "Megillot" regional council - "The dryness and isolation of this area give us trees with less disease, and the first fruit to go ripe in our country and in the world every season."
Most of the "Megillot" regional council date produce is exported, and corresponds with the strictest European and international standards.
The long shelf life date fruit has makes them available all year round, and in the past it used to be very popular to send dates from Israel to relatives abroad and let them have the taste of Israel.
Despite the image date trees have as desert trees - those are water consuming trees: a date tree needs about 350 gallons (1,300 liters) of water per day during the month of August, and since the area has very little natural water - its residents have turned two downsides to a plus and route unwanted sewage water from Jerusalem to a state-of-the-art water cleansing facility which has been approved by the Israeli health ministry.
This way, the "Megillot" regional council residents make an income from cleansing sewage water as well as preserving the area they live in.
The big Palm fronds are also used to cover the ground and prevent water from evaporating, and during the Jewish holiday of "Sukkot" will be sold for "Sukka" construction.
Starting this year (2010) all date fruit will be packaged in a new packing house which has just been established, and will serve the "Megillot" regional council, as well as the "Arava" and the Jordan valley.
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