I am a rose of Sharon; a lily of the valley.
Song of Songs 2:1
Solomon’s Beloved refers to herself as a rose of Sharon. The Sharon Plain lay along the Mediterranean Sea south of Mount Carmel, and was one of the largest and most fertile valleys in ancient Israel. The rose was not found in Israel in Biblical times, nor was the popular Rose of Sharon bush, the Hibiscus syriacus, which, despite its taxonomy, is a native of China. The rose of Sharon is a mistranslation of the Hebrew havatzelet which indicates an onion-like flower bulb.
Dr. Ephraim HaReubeni, past professor of Biblical Botany at the Hebrew University, posited that the Rose of Sharon was a tulip, most likely the Tulipa agenensis subspecies sharonensis, also known as the Sharon tulip. The Tulipa agenensis is a wildflower that at one time grew abundantly across Israel. Now, because of development, the Sharon tulip is harder to find in the wild. Other scholars have proposed the Narcissus tazetta, which our Biblical Garden grows in abundance, as the flower Solomon had in mind.
This fall the 5th, 6th and 7th grade students are putting the garden “to bed” for the winter, and planting a species tulip that resembles the commercially unavailable Sharon tulip, along with wild native hyacinth and saffron crocus. One of the joys of gardening with children, is sensing how connected they feel to the earth. They love to dig holes, plant bushes and bulbs and seeds and watch them grow. They smell the richness of the earth and discover life hidden under the soil. The Biblical Garden has now completed its fourth growing season, and the foundational trees, shrubs, grape arbor are established, thanks in large part to the eager labors of our young gardeners!
And a special todah rabah to George and Judy Cohen, for yet another summer of ensuring the Biblical Garden has been regularly watered and for the other garden spots they tend at Temple Sinai, for the betterment of both people and place in our community.
Michael Schlesinger is Temple Sinai’s Biblical Gardener. Mike has been gardening since he was eight years old. He used to grow grape vines and make wine when he lived in California. He now tends to our garden, continuing the traditions started by Catherine Walters.