Israel's Land of Milk and Honey: Prophecy Fulfilled
In the Bible, God promises the Jewish people a land flowing with milk and honey. And while the depiction is seen as a sign of abundance, it's also literal.
"In fact, milk and honey is critical. It's used 20 times in scripture," explained Moshe Kempinsky, an author and co-owner of Israel's Shorashim Biblical Shop.
But when the Jewish people returned from 2,000 years in exile, they found a barren, desert land.
"God says, 'I'm going to do something miraculous,'" Kempinsky added. "'I'm going to create a land that even though those climate issues don't call for it, it's going to be a land that's going to be filled with dates and honey, and also with milk so that you know that... nothing in this land comes here except when it's from Me.'"
It appears God has delivered on that promise. Despite the heat, humidity and limited resources, Israeli cow produces more milk per year than cows in the United States, European Union, and Australia.
Ronen Gal manages operations for the dairy at Kibbutz Yotvata, the largest milking facility of its kind in the country.
"We're considered leaders in the production of milk in the world," he said. "The milk production in Israel is very clever. It's very high tech."
What about the honey? Most believe during biblical times, honey probably came from date trees.
Botanist Dr. Elaine Solowey emigrated from the U.S. and settled not far from Yotvata on Kibbutz Ketura in 1974.
"I started out here as the head of the orchard branch and of course that was kind of funny because at that time we didn't have any orchards," Solowey recalled.
"In the first few years I was responsible for planting them and the first orchard I planted was the date orchard... which is the main agricultural branch of the Kibbutz," she said
There are tens of thousands of acres of date trees in Israel. Soloway planted some 3,000 of them.
Each tree produces about 350 pounds of dates a year.
Soloway even managed to sprout a 2,000-year-old date seed found by archaeologists years ago at Massada. Nicknamed "Methusela," the tree is now 5 years old.
Dates and palms were important in the scriptures, and those from this area were known throughout the ancient world.
"The Romans had nothing nice to say about the Jews except that they had good dates," Solowey said. "Their emperors actually used to order Judean dates to eat."
Today, Israel's dates are still famous throughout the world. Israel exports some 12,000 tons of dates each year to 20 countries.
Soloway has now moved beyond dates to grow life in the desert.
"I'm looking for trees that love to live in the desert, that rejoice to live in the desert. Not the ones I have to keep on life support," she joked.
"The biblical trees, if they grew here in the old days, why shouldn't they grow here now?" Solowey added.
"We re-introduced frankincense and myrrh, which had probably been introduced at the time of King Solomon," she continued.
"According to what we can tell from folk tales and from the Bible, there was already an incense and medicinal tree being cultivated here called the Balm of Gilead," she said.
The frankincense and myrrh brought to Jesus were probably in crystal form. According to Kempinsky, the revival of trees in the land is the first sign of redemption.
According to Kempinsky, the revival of trees in the land is the first sign of redemption.
"Ezekiel 36 says, 'Mountains shoot forth your branches, give forth your fruit because my children are coming home,'" he explained. "That's an unusual thing for God to tell a tree. That's what He created a tree to do."
"Except God is saying in Leviticus, 'It's going to be a desolate land when I kick you out … but watch when I bring my people back home. The land is going to come forth with blossoms and trees and fruits.'" Kempinsky added.
So to Kempinsky, every date that's eaten and every glass of milk we drink here is like prophecy being fulfilled.