Archaeologists Find Rare ‘Balm of Gilead’ Gemstone near Jerusalem’s Western Wall

                           (Balm of Gilead)

Archaeologists have said they believe they have seen the engraving on a precious gem of a biblical plant which many persons call the Balm of Gilead. This plant, which is rare, was found north of the City of David (ancient Jerusalem).

It was said to have been found underground in a 2,000-year-old drainage ditch next to Jerusalem’s Western Wall. While commenting on the discovery, the former archaeologist of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Eli Shukron said,

“It is a stone seal made of semi-precious amethyst stone with an engraving of a dove and a branch of a tree with fruit on the branch. What was surprising was that the branch is a branch with fruits that are not recognized from other seals from that period,” Shukon explained.

While volunteers and archeologists were searching through the remains from the drainage ditch at the Emek Tzurim National Park operated by the City of David, they found the seal.

“Once we found the seal with the branch and the fruit, we hypothesized that it was the biblical persimmon fruit plant as mentioned in the Bible and in the sources of the Second Temple period and the Byzantine period.

 “Jerusalem’s primary drainage channel was built under the pilgrimage road. The pilgrimage road started from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David and went up to the Temple on the Temple Mount of the Second Temple period. Apparently, this ring with the seal fell into the drainage ditch 2,000 years ago," Shukron said.

Globally, it was only ancient Hebrew farmers that were recorded to grow this unusual plant which is used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. However, Guy Erlich is only person known to grow the biblical persimmon as he has been working on it previously. Hence, Shukon took the stone to the farm of Erlich to show it to him. 

“I see here a branch of the biblical persimmon plant, the Balm of Gilead. It’s just amazing! Someone took a branch of the Balm of Gilead and drew it on the stone. It does not remind me of any other plant I know.

“This is the same persimmon that is identified with the biblical persimmon. It is the persimmon that served as the first of the incense ingredients of the Temple and as the anointing oil of the kings and priests,” Erlich said.

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