The contest over which is the most ancient tree in Israel is of little importance to tree lovers, a fifty-year old tree is also dear to them. But without a doubt the jujube tree at the Hatzeva Spring easily wins the coveted title, in the opinion of most experts. The tree is on the road going down to Eilat, alongside the Hatzeva Spring (Ayn Husb), and some suggest that it is the biblical date palm. The tree is of incredible size, with a trunk circumference of around 7 m., its height is approximately 14 m. and the diameter across its boughs is about 15 m. It has an estimated age of between 1,500 and 2,000; since it is hard to estimate the age of tropical trees.
The Israeli researcher, Yosef Braslavi, describes the spring and the jujube tree above it as, “a splendid pleasure for the eye weary from the desert desolation, not only with the abundance of flora adorning it, but also its fresh green colors, which are a very rare sight in the Arava... But your eye catches the famous jujube more than anything else, with its size and advanced age... The cumbersome branches drop down from their great weight, and the largest of them arches into a bow shape, actually touching the ground. The tree’s lower branches sit in the heavy shade of the treetop, dry and bare, but those facing the sun are green and fresh. In the spring the jujube branches are laded with delicious yellow fruits. The Bedouins eat them fresh or dried or grind them into flour and mix them with butter.”
The Hatzeva Spring was famous as an important travelers’ station during the Israelite, Nabatean and Roman periods. The tree is described by the expedition researchers Musil, the Czech, Lawrence of Arabia, and the Israeli geographer, Braslavi.
In 1963, there was drilling and over pumping of underground water, which led to the gradual withering of the tree. Simcha Pearlmutter, who founded Ir Ovot at the site, made sure to preserve the tree from the archaeological excavations at the site, and even ensured drip irrigation. But as Prof. Shmida, Mimi Ron, and Shuka Ravek write about the tree in Teva Hedevarim, “today the jujube is green, giant, but “dejected” at the edge of Ein Hatzeva’s archaeological park, and we all hope it returns to its former glory.”