Seven plants of the field and vine, with which the Land of Israel
is blessed, are elaborated upon in the Book of Deuteronomy (8:8):
“A land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig trees, and pomegranates;
a land of olive oil and honey.” Ripened yields of the seven species were
brought to the Temple in Jerusalem. These crops and fruits
frequently served ancient Jewish art as decorative motifs in
synagogues and on everyday objects, such as coins, seals, rings,
lamps, jewelry, glass vessels, and more.
The Land of Israel has always been known for its vineyards
and their products. The vine symbolized the fertility
of the land, and the people of Israel were likened to
a vine planted by God. The vine, the cluster, the leaves,
and the tendrils were frequent patterns of decoration.
Grapes symbolized happiness and eternal life, and they
decorated Maccabean coins, Bar-Kochba coins, and oil
lamps. The ornamentation was meant to recall the Holy
Temple, in which Herod affixed a vine of gold to the
entrance to the Holy of Holies. The vine pattern decorates
ancient synagogues, coffins, and other objects.
Bronze oil lamp handle in the shape of a vine leaf
Mishnaic (Late Roman) period
The fruit of the pomegranate, juicy and full of seeds,
was a common symbol of human, animal, and vegetable
fertility. Accordingly ritual items, such as jars, pendants,
scepters, and votive objects were designed in the shape
of the pomegranate. Ornaments in the shape of this fruit
decorated the hems of the garments of the High Priest.
Copper pomegranates decorated Yachin and Boaz - the
columns that were placed in the Temple's façade.
Vessel shaped like a pomegranate
Late Israelite (Iron) period
In Jewish sources, the fig represents a life of tranquility and quiet: “And every
man sat under his vine and under his fig tree and was
not afraid” (Micah 4:4). In the Bible, many allegories
and images connect the fig with the people of Israel;
its fruit is one of the fruits representing the yield of the land.
Following Jewish tradition, which identifies
the tree of knowledge as the fig tree, the fig is also
related to the Torah.
Limestone fragment depicting fig leaves,
from the synagogue at Capharnaum, 4th-6th Centuries CE
The evergreen olive, which is strongly connected with
the Land of Israel, its original home, was a metaphor for
beauty, fertility, and strength, as well as a symbol
of peace and hope, wisdom and happiness. The olive is
mentioned many times in Jewish sources; it was the prime
export of the Land of Israel and throughout the generations,
its fruit and oil served the residents of the land in
many different ways.
Decorated shard depicting
olive branch (upper row)
a vine branch (middle row)
and a pomegranate branch (lower row)
Mishnaic (Late Roman) Period
Dates, among the most ancient fruit trees in the Land of Israel,
had a central function in the economic life of the inhabitants
of the region. The branches of the date symbolize the
abundant yield of the land, as well as the wandering of the Israelites in the desert, by virtue of the fact that
the "lulav" (palm frond) is one of the four species servicing
the holiday of Sukkot (Tabernacles). Braid-like engravings
of date tree branches were among the wall decorations
in the Temple of Solomon. The date was the inspiration
for the design of column capitals in the Late Israelite
(Iron) period; known as the "‘palmate capital," this design
decorated palaces and public structures.
in the shape of a date, 2nd-3rd Centuries CE
Wheat and Barley
In ancient times, grain constituted a principal component
of the human diet. This fact, in addition to the phenomenon
of the sprouting of dry grain seeds in the ground, made
it a symbol of agricultural plenty and rebirth. Decorations
in the form of stalks of grain were frequent in Jewish
art in the period of the Jewish wars against Rome, as they expressed hope and national rebirth.
Gnostic black slate gem,
depicting a figure reaping barley,
Talmudic (Byzantine) Period