THE ISRAELI DATES
Driving along the Jordan Valley, we constantly observe how the number of date plantations grows here every year. Sometimes it's just hard to believe that this area is a waterless desert. That the soil here is practically devoid of organic matter, and greens appear for a short time only during the period of scant winter rains. When people lived here, they were engaged in grazing small ruminants, and in the sultry summer, they migrated to more fertile areas. Because now this desert in places looks like the Garden of Eden.
Much has been written about the benefits of dates. And that their sugar is not as harmful as glucose, and even diabetics are advised to eat a couple of dates a day. That they are full of vitamins and minerals. That when our country is called "Earth flowing with milk and honey", it means exactly date honey - a paste made from ground fruits. Because dates are one of the seven plant species that are characteristic of this land, along with wheat and barley and olives, grapes, figs, and pomegranates. And the significance of the date palm is so great that there is a special name for it in Hebrew. Any other palm is called a deckle, and only a date is called a Tamar. Hence the name Tamar, or Tamara. But, according to our tradition, the name defines a person. And, pronouncing the name Tamar, you see her - tall, slender, curly, sweet.
As part of a course organized by the Judea and Samaria Council of Settlements, I visited kibbutzim, moshavim, and date farms. It turns out that one-third of the total amount of these sweet fruits supplied to the world markets is produced in our country. So I wanted to tell you a little about how hard and using what technologies our farmers achieve such excellent results.
Well, to begin with, the most popular and demanded variety of dates in the world is major. Technology has been developed in Israel to achieve record yields of this variety. 150-200 kg of these wonderful fruits is removed from each tree per season. And this is many times more than that of our neighbors.
The date palm is not quite a tree, its trunk consists of dense fibers and does not have annual rings. During the ripening period, palm trees require a lot of water - from 700 liters per day for each tree in the Jordan Valley to 1000 liters in the Dead Sea region. They say about the palm tree: its feet are in the water, and its head is on fire. Where to get so much water in the desert? It turns out that treated wastewater from Jerusalem and other mountainous regions of the country is used for irrigation. In this water, of course, some impurities remain, but the tall trunk of the palm tree serves as an additional filter, and unnecessary substances do not reach the fruits.
There are farms where only biological methods of pest control are used. And there is one where they spray with chemicals to protect against them, but only when there are no fruits yet. And not all the time, but only when these pests are discovered. But for the detection of wood-boring pests, we use military technologies, the same as for the fight against terrorists digging tunnels from the Gaza Strip. Both those and others hear supersensitive sensors that respond to the slightest vibration. Only on the border with Gaza, these sensors are installed on a protective underground wall. And in the Jordan Valley - in the trunks of date palms. And when a signal arrives, they immediately take appropriate action.
The Date Tree is male or female?
The date palm is male and female. There are several male trees on the plantation, from which pollen is collected during the season and transported to the trees by female trees with the help of various spray guns, "vacuum cleaners" and even drones. To get to the flowers, you need a lift, which will come in handy again and again later.
Maghull dates are very large. One farm even raised a record holder weighing 52 grams. But for them to grow large, the bunches must be thinned out. If there are too many fruits, they will turn out to be small. If you thin out too much, then you will miss the harvest. This requires a scientific calculation and a lot of experience.
When the green fruits have already formed, each bunch must be bent down and tied to the branch located directly above it. The fact is that the bunches are full of fruits, and these fruits when they grow and ripen, will become much heavier. And the "stalk" on which this bunch grows will simply not be able to withstand its weight. Indeed, in nature, there is no such number of dates in one bunch.
When the fruits begin to ripen, picking up sugar and turning brown, a protective net is put on each bunch. In it, the dates ripen and dry right on the branch. They do not need to be specially dried and treated with gases, like other dried fruits, they are immediately ready for use.
Dates do not ripen on the palm at the same time. The best ones are those that ripened first. They are collected by hand, one at a time. Then, when the next batch is ripe, they go through the second round, then through the third. Remember the lift? How many times have we used it?
The best, so-called "super juicy" fruits are exported. As well as following them in quality "jumbo". No, you can buy them from us, but they are very expensive. Basically, those that are cheaper come to the local market - not the largest, but not differing in any way in quality and taste. And there is still a lot of surpluses left. What to do with them? It is expensive to dispose of. It is much easier to give them to neighboring livestock farms. Both green clusters after thinning and ripe fruits are taken there. Along with surpluses of sweet peppers, grapes, and other fruits of the desert. And depending on what the sheep and goats eat, they get different milk and cheeses from it. But more on that separately.
Dates are convenient because they are well stored. Therefore, they can be thrown onto the market not only in season but all year round. This is what makes them very cost-effective. If the dates are consumed immediately, it is best to keep them in the refrigerator. And for long-term storage, you need to put it in the freezer. They do not lose their qualities and do not freeze, but simply become a little more viscous. Various delicacies are made from dates, for example, sweet Silan paste, an excellent seasoning for salads and hot dishes. Silane is also produced with nuts, sesame seeds, halva, chocolate - you can swallow your tongue! They also brew beer and vodka. I tried it - it went well! I also ate dates with salty dates.
How do date palms reproduce?
How do date palms reproduce? It turns out that they, like the Jews, everything comes from the mother. It depends on the female tree what kind of dates we get. And the male-only gives pollen. You cannot grow a noble variety from seed, because it contains half of the outbred paternal genes. Therefore, palms propagate by shoots from the lower part of the mother trunk. Such processes are wrapped with a film, the sawdust is poured down and water is supplied with fertilizers. When the roots appear, the seedling is separated and transferred to the greenhouse and the plantation.
The palm tree is growing rapidly. You can slow down its growth a little so that it is more convenient to work with bunches, but it still tends to go up. And to hold a tall tree and reach the groundwater, you need deep roots. That is why, in the Jewish tradition, a righteous person is likened to a date palm. He stands firmly on the ground with his feet, his thoughts are directed to the sublime, and his words and deeds are sweet as date fruits.
Visit the Jordan Valley and see the best world's best dates
Well, in conclusion - the biggest shock. Everyone knows that when you drive through the Jordan Valley, you can see the border fence from the road. But the border with Jordan itself runs to the east and below, along the riverbed of the Jordan River, along with its lowest points. And since the Jordan River is constantly changing its course, the border is constantly moving - now in our favor, now in favor of the neighbors. So, we were brought behind an electronic fence 500 meters to the east.
Hills of soft sedimentary rock - marl stretched all around. Marl is quite fertile, although the landscape creates a gray, dull one. And so we drove up to a cliff and got off the bus. We stood over the Jordan floodplain, which lay almost a hundred meters below. And there, below us, stretched the green sea. Hundreds of date palms stood in orderly rows in the sultry calm. And my breath caught in my throat. This is where you need to take tourists! After all, you cannot see this beauty from the road. This is where you understand what our people can do on their land! Not by the warm sea, not in the abounding Galilee, but the wild, scorched, uninhabitable desert. Although why is it unusable? We made it blooming and fertile. As well as his whole Country. If only they would not interfere with us ...