Saturday, August 12, 2017

Chabad's citrons — archaeology to the rescue?

CITRON CATASTROPHE: As Italy’s citron crop fails, an archaeologist looks to fruit’s 2,500-year history in Israel. After a disastrous frost that looks to wipe out the majority of this year’s etrog yield, Chabad Jewry braces for a crisis ahead of the Feast of Tabernacles (Amanda Borschel-Dan).
The natural disaster, alongside the closure of the small family citron farms to make way for tourism, make for a dim future for Chabad Jews reliant on this citron, which has been grown in the region for at least 2,000 years.

So perhaps they should look to a place where they have been cultivated for even longer — Israel.

A recent study of the migration of citrus fruit to the Mediterranean region by Tel Aviv University Prof. Dafna Langgut illustrates through archaeobotanical proof that the citron first appeared in Israel, and only about 500 years later in Italy.

Langgut’s discipline of archaeobotany involves the identification of botanical remains in archeological contexts. In the case of the citron (Citrus medica), she and her team discovered pollen from the fruit in a private garden in Jerusalem which dates back to the First Temple period.
It is not clear to me whether Chabad is actually considering using Israeli citrons for Sukkot. The Calabrian ones were prescribed by their late leader Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, so there is considerable authority behind their use. But the losses of the Calabrian citron crop sound catastrophic. I suppose they may need to look to other options.

The discovery of ancient citron pollen at Ramat Rachel was noted here in 2012. For more on the Ramat Rachel excavation, see here and links. And I noted that recent study of the ancient use of citrus fruit, including citrons, here.

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