The Persimmon scent- Cleopatra and Jesus favorite brand
A stern warning was displayed along the ground mosaic of the local synagogue for anyone to discover the mystery of the village. The mosaic of the synagogue dealt with a curse on those who start quarrels, slander their neighbors in front of the Gentiles, steal, or reveal the secret. The secret of the luxury scent of Dead Sea, by the persimmon perfume.
A journey to the brand of luxury scents during the period of the Roman Empire here at the Dead Sea
Almost two thousand years ago, the best kept secret desert is in a story of innovation to create a unique fragrance by the Jewish community of Ein-Gedi ancient village. This fragrance was the most successful brand in ancient times, to such a degree that Queen Cleopatra of Egypt demanded to receive it frequently. Some scholars believe it can remind us of Jesus. Who was believed to be anointed with it.
Balm of Gilead -the creation of an ancient brand
According to recent research, the famous perfume was manufactured by Balm the of Gilead, nicknamed 'Persimmon'. In ancient times it was found only in the region of the Dead Sea: in Masada, Jericho or Ein-Gedi.
A great source of knowledge is the Roman author Old Pliny (Ad 23-79) who referred to perfume in his books «The History of Nature».
The perfume was created hard a delicate process of grooving the branch of the plant and the stem and collecting drops of the white liquid which excreted from it. It was a slow process because it was possible to gather only a few precious drops. The Jews in the second temple period developed a unique technique of increasing the output of the resin and it is likely that the main secret was in its production techniques and in the preparation of other products out of it.
Its prestige is expressed in the fact that it was used as the kings anointing oil in the Jewish temple and even the queen Cleopatra was among the people was craving for the Balm Of Gilead perfume. Many believe that even Jesus himself was anointed through her; a luxury belongs only to the kings who visited the temple. Perhaps this fragrance is the closest thing to the actual odor of Jesus.
Men devoted to the discovery of the perfume of Kings and Jesus
Guy Erlich, is a passionate agriculture who has tried for years to find the scent of the Gilad Palm ancient fragrance. At the end of the second period of the Temple, many significant events were happening: The Jewish temple was destroyed and them the Roman empire was losing its power. Later, the Muslim empire reigned over the land of Israel and the Jewish people had to wander far that made their secret fruit and scent disappear.
Guy got the planting of the tree Chommiphora Gileadeans who identified with the balsam class. Together with professionals, they did research and developments which made their farm a biotechnology business and grow a special collection of ancient herbs for medical use as well.
Main travel information
On the entrance of the kibbutz Almog. If you are coming from the east, after driving to the Dead Sea on Road #1 just next to the gas station at Vered Jericho Junction. Turn right towards Kibbutz Almog and there is a sign indicating the farm on your right.
Opening hours: Sunday to Thursday from 7 am to 10 pm.
Friday, 7am to 2pm.
Address: Entry of the kibbutz Almog.
|Bus lines||In the Kibbutz Almog lines 486 ,26 Jerusalem. To Ein-Gedi: line 486 from Jerusalem|
|Car||Drive on the road No.1 west to the Dead Sea area|
|Taxi||Local taxi from Jerusalem from the Dead Sea.|
The entrance is within walking distance. However, the visitor centre is located on the small hill which is currently accessible only by walk or tractor. So the main experience is not yet wheelchair accessible.
The Dead Sea region is considered extremely hot due to its special desert climate. Take a sun cream, large hat and clothes that can protect your body from the sun.
If you are staying overnight in the area, don't forget that you are in the desert. At night it might get really cold so unless you plan on visiting during the summer months, you should bring with your warmer clothes.
Perfume from the Ancient World
There is an ancient story about women, when they wanted to seduced a men they put the fruit of Palm of Gilead in their shoes, when the men walked by they step on it and the wonderful smell spread out so this men could not avoid it and searched for the lady with the great smell.
The flavors of ancient times were one of the most important products. Even here in Israel, there were “perfume routes” with scented products from Africa and Asia via Israel en route to Europe.
The most sold fragrance in the ancient world was made of a local fruit called «The Balsam of Galaad» and was worth selling. The word perfume comes from the Latin meaning - material used to bring a fragrant scent when it is burned, which emphasizes that the first fragrance was used as incense.
The balm of Gilead Scent Story
The exact identity Gilad fragrance balm is not completely defined so far.
Research today almost certainly thinks that they found the closest version of the tree that made the most sold perfume in ancient times. According to them, it is ascribed to a plant called “The Balm of Gilead” or Commiphora opobalsamum or Commiphora gileadensis and its nickname is “persimmon”. It has nothing to do with the orange khaki we eat today, which is imported from China. The scent is made from the resin of the plant by burning the stalk of the plant only during the summer period of the year. Rabbi Shimon Gamliel explained “The wreath is only a resin dripping from the velvet trees" (Babylonia). This sentence shows how complex the production process of the fragrance is. The plant known today is probably a cultivated variety, a shrub about a beat and a half tall with small fibers and round shaped with cherry colored fruits which was belong to plans from the Bushman class, famous for its aroma.
The Visitor Centre/ The perfume is finally back!
After an absence of fifteen hundred years, the Balm of Gilead returns to Israel and invites you to join a romantic adventure, scented with ancient fragrances Come and see how the glory of the past, come to life again.
You can go to this site alone, but in order to follow the mystery story of this perfume we strongly suggest you to start your day in the ancient synagogue of Ein-Gedi and witness the beautiful mosaic which mentioned the secret of the village. Then you can continue to Ein-Pascha to see the archaeological pool that consider as the local plant used for perfume production Balm of Gilead.
Smell resurrected ancient aromas. Meet fascinating Zionist settlers. Listen to the surprising plants that are part of the heritage. Sample the special herbs of the soil. Feel the wonderful energy of biblical trees When they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and myrrh (Gospel of Matthew, 2). An exclusive collection of rare biblical fragrant and medicinal plants.
Greetings from Roman times
The ancient scent and herbs were also used as a medicine and for body care. It was produced from a tree grown under the special conditions of the region such as sweet spring waters and dry weather It used as one of the ingredients of the temple incense, and as the oil in which the kings of Israel were anointed by. It therefore has a mystical and special scent which was dedicated daily to the temple. But what made it so special?
When I discovered this story during my guide courses, I was very curious to know the great mystery of the old community of Ein-Gedi. I did a little research and find out more information about the Palm of Gilead tree which the perfume made of. I didn't have a lot of questions in mind, but we wanted to know: Why was it so expensive? And how did an energetic researcher leave everything and followed his dream to find out the Palm of Gilead tree and grow this plant today in the middle of the desert?
Let us go back to the 10th century B.C., when the Queen of Sheba came from Ethiopia to visit King Solomon. Among her gifts, she chooses to bring him the balm of Gilead perfume.
In the Bible, there is a sentence: «When they had opened their treasures, they presented to him gifts: gold, incense and myrrh «(Gospel of Matthew, 2). Some researchers refer to gold as the blame of the Gilead scent.
Roman historian Pilinus wrote an entire chapter about this biblical perfume and mentioned that during any roman victory parades, the emperors carried the fruit to emphasize the victory and the conquest of the kingdom of Judea.
The price for the oil produced from this fruit was incredible. Half of this oil according to Pilinus is worth up to 1,000 dinars, which was twice the value of metal money, an enormous sum. Like what is happening with good brands, many tried to imitate it but without any success.
This perfume was one of the most important contributions and medical made by Jews in the world. Only the former Hebrew farmer was able to cultivate the planet exclusively. When secret production was passed down through generations.
An Historian from Sicily named Diodros who lived 1,900 years ago describe the dead sea region and mentioned that there were areas in a certain valley, the “balsam” tree, which they received the perfume from.
Another historian named Sternbon's wrote that oil made from the fruit may cure headaches and visual impairment.
Theosophe, a Greek botanist explained that this is a complicated process for producing oil. In addition, picking is done in the summer, but the quantity of oil is not significant. These descriptions add to the glamour of the oil.
The complex production process of the fragrance was the secret of the Ein Gedi community because of the exact climate it needed. The gentle source of the nearby «Ein Pesacha» was similar to the varieties developed in Ein Gedi. The community also planted the Balsam Of Gilead tree in nearby Jericho. The Romans who conquered Israel 2,000 years ago took back the trees of the whole region of the Dead Sea. They did not succeed in extracting the secret of the process of making the perfume from Ein Gedi farmers, but demanded jars of perfume as a tax payment, which led to an increase in agricultural output. One of the enthusiastic clients was Cleopatra, the Queen of Egypt, who convinced her lover the Roman emperor Marcus Antonio to hand over all the persimmon to hand over all the oil collected as tax in Ein Gedi.
It seems that during the Roman conquest the Jews of Ein-Gedi did not want to reveal the secret of producing this perfume and chose to destroy it’s bushes and take the secret of production with them to their graves.
How did the secret fragrance come back?
In 1957, the French excavator Ronald De Woo de Qumran discovered an interesting complex from the Herodian era. Later on an Israeli Professor Mr. Yizhar Hirschfeld of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem carried out excavations at the same site “Einot Tsukim”.
The large installations found at this site are considered to be a small Persimmon perfume production plant. The facility includes an open pool and next to it two covered rooms; In one room there is a pool for soaking persimmon perfume extracts, and a built-in compartment for storing them. In the other room there is a mikveh taharah (Jewish purification pool) which was used by the people before they started their work or alternatively after the work, in case it is essential and they are not interested in the good smell of persimmon because they advocate asceticism. Large, rounded stones were found in the installation, which were used to crush the persimmon branches in order to extract the perfume extracts from it. Researchers believe that that the plant extract flowed through a canal pit to the soaking pool and collected by pottery jugs and from there to a special cooking facility which was not found yet.
Another proof for the plant was founded in the Byzanta map of Midba in Jordan. On the map there is a picture of a plant with three lives around the region of Jericho which considered as expert to be the plant of Persimmon.
Explore |What to see at the Visitor Center
You will drive to Kibbutz Almog, when you turn to the kibbutz road, you will see a sign stating “The Balem of Gilaed Farm”. After admission you will be greeted with a locally made tea or coffee upon arrival and sit down for a brief explanation of the place in the shade. Then you will have a short walk to the next by hill and will witness the magic of this place while walking by one of the most expensive product ingredients in the history.
Vising Centre Activity
When you arrive at the visitor centre, it's like going back in time for a tangible, multi-sensory tour. First, you will see an intimate sitting area and meet the men who followed her dream of building this farm, Guy Erlich. It starts with local tea and coffee. You will hear the wind blow and take a look at the magnificent desert that surrounds you. After getting into the right mood, you will continue to the nearby hill to see the magic inside the greenhouse where the special “Balm of Gilead” is growing and for the biblical workshop. During the workshop, you will be presented with former cosmetics made by fruit oil.
Guy will tell you about the journey he went through until he found the rare plant, the adventures on the way to its successful growth and thousands of other. He will show you the special and interesting shrubs that grow in greenhouses. In addition, you can smell dozens of rare plants, and a short ceremony that simulates the incense of the Temple in Jerusalem.
From the open hut reception center you can notice the world's oldest town Jericho and magnificent Dead Sea on the west.
Smelling is Believing
There is a famous phrase: “seeing is believing”. Here we can close our eyes, smell the smell and imagine Israel's kings or Jesus sitting beside us.
After hearing the story, meet this special tree and feel the end fragrance product as the highlight of the visit. Sounds to me like a combination of clementine, cinnamon and mint. Anyone may think of other smells. I wonder what you're going to say about the scent.
This place is not just a history that has come to life, it is about a researcher who was willing to follow his heart and sacrifice everything for his dream. Guy moved from Jerusalem to the kibbutz in the middle of the desert and took all of his savings to make the history most famous fragrance to be here today with us. Some will think it is crazy, but many others can smell the fragrance and get inspiration while thinking about innovation made first by the ancient Jewish community and now by a local pioneer.
Persimmon | The History of the Balm of Gilead
In biblical times, the tree was called «Zari» (or Tzri Hagilad), together with Nataf and Beshem.
The Greeks were the first to call it Balsam, whilst the Romans called it Oppo-Balsam. The name Persimmon was given by the Jews in the 1 st century.
The balm was first mentioned in the Bible after Joseph's brothers threw it into a ditch. (Genesis 37-25) As they sat down to eat, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming out of Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm, and myrrh, and they were on their way to bring them down to Egypt.»
The first to identify the biblical persimmon with Commiphora Giledensis was Carolus Linnaeus in the 18th century, the father of the taxonomic method of classification of plants. He sent his student to Yemen with a detailed list of tree characteristics and he was successfully found.
Eating in the area
1] Me Casa- a restaurant with Italian cooking. You must try their home made ice-cream which is perfect for the desert climate. It is located at “Almog Junction”, turn left to “Vered Jericho” and you will notice it on your right. This place is open during the weekends as well +972-(0)2-970-7087.
2] Last Chance Restaurant - Kosher grill restaurant at Almog Junction, you will notice a real camel in the entrance that will welcome you. Closed on Saturday 972-(0)2-940-9414.
Nearby exploring options
You are in Dead Sea region and have here many touring options.
For Kayak adventure check this post
For best Dead Sea beaches check this post.
If you wish to follow Jesus steps, you should check out our posts about churches in Israel. Like this one:
The particular climate of the desert contributes to the fact that numerous archaeological discoveries are wonderfully preserved. The inscription found in the old synagogue and other sources reveal the mysterious secret of the desert plant. The search for the plant that produces the most sought-after scent in the ancient world is a source of inspiration and has never felt better. Not many know the historical story of the persimmon plant and its connection to Jesus, let's discover the place before it fills people.