Israeli Attractions: Date Palms and Sukkot

The date (Tamar) has the same numerical value as the sun (Shemesh). Just as photosynthesis converts sunlight into fruit, the light of God (the Torah) can be transformed into the fruits of inspiration.

Palms tree orchid, the Arava (Photo - Rimona Traub)

In honor of the festival of Sukkot, instead of describing a location in Israel, I will discuss  the attributes of the Palm tree (lulav), one of the 4 species associated with the festival. The other species being the myrtle (hadass), willow (aravah) and citron (etrog).


קובץ:Arbaat haminim-2.jpg
The four species of Sukkot (Photo – Wikipedia)


This is an extension of a previous article on the reintroduction of date palms into the Jordan Valley and Arava.

Dates are one of the 7 species associated with the Land of Israel. The others being wheat, barley, grapes, figs, olives  and pomegranates (Deuteronomy 8:8). Mentioned more than 30 times in the Bible, dates have both physical and spiritual attributes.


The seven species of the Land of Israel (Photo – Wikipedia)


On a physical level, dates have been grown for 5000 years or more. Requiring much sun, the trees enabled barren parts of the world such as deserts to be inhabited .

Dates are among the very highest fruits on the glycemic index scale, which measures the natural sugar content. On average, palm trees take 4 to 6 years to reach maturity & can live from between 80 to 100 years. The hot desert climate and abundance of sun allows for photosynthesis occur.This enables the plant to convert sunlight into energy and eventually into fruit.

Date palms created shaded areas that provided protection against the elements. During the desert sojourn, our ancestors camped at the desert oasis of Elim (Exodus 15:27). The oasis was home to 12 springs representing the 12 tribes, and 70 date palms representing the 70 elders.

In addition to creating a habitable environment, the leaves were used as a broom as well as material for the weaving of baskets. The fronds were used for the roof of the tabernacle and the trunks for the construction of both roofs and walls.

The edible fruit is light in weight, resilient to heat  and therefore easily portable and could be carried on journey’s across the desert. Dates were and are also processed to produce both wine and honey.


Majhool dates, Kibbutz Elifaz, the Arava


On a spiritual level, the date (tamar תמר) has according to gematria, a numerical value of 640, as does the sun (shemesh שמש). In the same way as photosynthesis converts sunlight into fruit, the kabbalists maintain that the light of God (Torah) can be transformed into energy so as to yield the fruits of inspiration and understanding .

Thus, date palms symbolize the righteous person as expressed in Psalms 92:13 – “The righteous like the date palm will flourish”. Isiah 60:21 further states “Your people are righteous, they shall inherit the land forever”.  In the belief that Torah gives life, the kabbalists maintain that the palm tree can be referred to as the tree of life.


Ron Traub is a certified Israeli tour guide and can be reached by email at

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