Jerusalem – Center of the World – Part I

Another War Forced Upon Israel

These are terrible times. Israel is fending off enemies whose military might is noteworthy but whose public relations are breathtaking and frightening.  Too many people have little understanding of the history of present day Israel or of ancient Israel and the subsequent Jewish Diaspora.

In an effort to celebrate both ancient and modern Israel, I am dedicating this blog to plants that honor Jerusalem, the capital of both ancient and modern Israel. I also wish to honor the ultimate sacrifice of  too many IDF soldiers, particularly Ben Zussman, 22, a member of the greater Bendheim family who was buried today (12/4/23). The brother of one of my high school classmates is married into that family. 

Ben Zussman From Times of Israel

Plant Classification Systems

Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist (1707-1778), developed the system that we use today for classifying all living things. Humans are always seeking patterns and so, Linnaeus was hardly the first classifier. An important element of his system  is his use of genus and species names, usually derived from Latin or ancient Greek, as the ultimate identifier of any livingthing be it plant or animal.  

Carl Linnaeus - Courtesy of Alexander Roslin

Theophrastus, a Greek botanist from around 300BC systemized plants into trees, bushes, small shrubs and herbs and named about 480 plants. Dioscorides, a Greek doctor around 77AD, created a new system based on plant utility for humans. His categories, therefore, included aromatic plants, vegetables and medicinal plants. Later systems were based on similarities of plant appearances and shapes such as leaf forms.

Rob Dunn, author of A Natural History of the Future, suggests that Linnaeus had it easy insofar as Sweden and the northern European countries with which he was familiar – England, northern France, northern Germany, northern France, and the Netherlands – had relatively extremely low biodiversity


The Hebrew name of the city  is Yerushalayim. While there are varied etymological explanations, most incorporate the word Shalem/ Shalom meaning peace. According to ancient sources, Jerusalem was known in Biblical texts by seventy different names.

However, for the purposes of this blog , we need to acquaint ourselves with the ancient Greek name for Jerusalem, Hierosoylma. The Latin adjective is hierosolymitanum.

Jerusalem Bellflower

Our first plant is the Jerusalem Bellflower (Campanula hierosolymitana Boiss.) This member of the Campanulaceae (bellflower family), grows throughout Israel in sub-tropical areas with the exception of the southern Negev. It is an annual, flowering from mid-March to end April.

Jerusalem BellFlower- Courtesy , Izik Kirshenbaum
Pierre Edmond Boissier - Courtesy of Wikipedia

 The tag Boiss. found in the scientific name and seen frequently joined with other plant names refers to the Swiss botanist and explorer Pierre Edmond Boissier(1810-1885).  His vast botanic herbarium collections gathered on journeys through Europe, North Africa and the Middle East now reside in the Herbier Boissier in Geneva. He named the Jerusalem Bellflower in 1849. It is native to Israel, Turkey and Lebanon-Syria.

To be continued………

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