Squill in Israeli Culture

This article was adapted from one written by the noted Israeli botanist: Prof. Avinoam Danin Published: January 17th, 2010 | Updated: 17/01/15

Squill should be regarded as a “regular” plant and not a “special” one because it is widespread and prominent in various seasons. It is found in all the 31 geographical districts of Israel and Jordan. It has many special “personal” features. It is one of the most prominent flowering plants in Israel and appears in many poems.

The plant was studied by Efrayim and Hanna HaReubeni, who saw in the plant many natural phenomena and close cultural links with the entire Middle East. In autumn, the sea-squill (Urginea maritima) terminates the growth cycle of a stem that started its development and leaf activity at the beginning of last year’s winter. It invites and hosts many insect pollinators in a season poor in flowers.

The plant’s name in Hebrew (HATSAV) is derived, according to HaReubeni (1941), from the similarity of the developing leaves as they sprout from the bulb at the beginning of winter, to the stone-cutters’ chisel. The word HATSAV in a Hebrew-Hebrew dictionary may surprise the reader (many are surprised at this): in addition to a plant, this word means a big jug or pitcher for storing oil or water. Think of the farmer plowing his field and uprooting a squill bulb with its leaves. He may hold the narrow part between the bulb and the leaves. The similarity between this and holding a jug by its “neck” is strong. The squill excels at developing large groups of bulbs (which will be called here “squill families”) and the development process of these “families” is poorly known to most people. Q

According to the Reubenis, the Hebrew name of the sea squill (HATSAV) derives from the sprouting leaves (left) which look like the chisel of the stone-cutter. In Hebrew-Hebrew dictionaries HATSAV is also a big jug or pitcher used for storing oil or water.

Squill sprouts after the summer drought dormancy. A few of the leaves are at the chisel stage, while others are already at the jug stage.

Symbolism:

Before I discovered the Israeli squill, I was ignorant (unknowing) of its existence and its characteristics. My ignorance didn’t harm or hurt the squill; it was still there and with the same characteristics. Many individuals in the world are ignorant about the Triune God. Their ignorance doesn’t mean He is not there or does not exist.  In this scheme of things, my being ignorant about squill has little impact on me or the plant. In contrast to the squill, if individuals are ignorant about God, their eternal destiny will be impacted. In reality, each of us has a responsibility to tell others of Christ as our Savior.

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth, November 10, 2017

Please check my website for books about Bible plants to include parables illustrated by plants.

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