Jerusalem (Aleppo) Pine

“I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree…” (Isaiah XLI, 19).
Hebrew name: Jerusalem Pine
Scientific name: Pinus halepensis [Aleppo Pine]

The Jerusalem Pine. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The Jerusalem [Aleppo] Pine is the most commonly found tree in the forests of Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael.  KKL-JNG planted most of the pine forests over recent decades and the natural pine woodlands are small and far between.  Uncultivated pines are rare in the country and the Jerusalem Pine is in effect the only species of wild pine that grows here.  The most beautiful forests of Jerusalem Pine can be found on the Carmel.
Most researchers today accept that the tree now called “pine” is the Biblical “oil tree”, as mentioned in Isaiah XLI, 19:
“I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree…”  
It is also mentioned in I Kings VI, 23: “And inside the sanctuary he made two cherubs of oil wood, each ten cubits high.”
The oil tree is also mentioned verses 31 and 33 of the same chapter, as well as in Nechemia VIII, 15.

Needles of the Brutia Pine. Photo: Yael Horowitz, KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The oil tree features close to other impressive trees in the description of the vision of the redemption, in the blossoming of the desert and the arid land.  In the Mishnah and other rabbinic literature, the oil tree is mentioned as a tree that was used for kindling the beacons that were lighted to announce a new month.
The pine, in its present name, is mentioned in the Bible just once, in the Book of Isaiah XLIV, 14:
“… and takes the cypress and the oak, which he strengthens for himself among the trees of the forest; he plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it.”
There is a mention of pine trees in the Mishnah in the context of the various trees which were used for burning the “red heifer”.  There are also those who hold that pines were among the trees used for kindling the beacons to announce a new month.
Botanical description:

Pinecones. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive

The pine is an evergreen, coniferous tree growing to a height of 5 – 15 meters.  Throughout the Mediterranean Basin, the tree is regenerated only from seeds.  The trunk has furrowed bark and when punctured it emits a very sticky, aromatic resin.  The leaves are needle-shaped, about 10 cms in length and grow in pairs on very short branches.
About 105 species in the pine family grow world wide.  The pine is the world’s main forest tree and, therefore, also the most mentioned tree.  In Israel, only two-needle pines grow but elsewhere in the world there are many pine trees with 3 and 5 fascicles (bundles) at the tip of each short shoot.  To define a pine tree, therefore, the number of needles in each shoot has to be counted.
All the pine trees in the world have a straight and usually tall trunk.  The trunk is not rejuvenated after being cut down or burned.  The pine is a very old species whose fossilized leaves were found in ancient times.
The pine is suitable for growth in poor soil, thanks mainly to the symbiosis between it and the land fungi.  The fungus receives its food from the tree and draws water and minerals from the soil that the plant is incapable of absorbing directly through its roots.  The pine absorbs these minerals from the fungus.
The Jerusalem [Aleppo] pine blossoms and flowers in the spring.  The male cones are shed after the flowering while the female cones develop into fruit.  The cone stays closed on the tree until a heavy sharav [hamsin], when it opens and its seeds are scattered.
The pine species known in Israel are:
Jerusalem [Aleppo] pine – Pinus halepensis
Brutia pine – Pinus brutia
Canary pine – Pinus canariens
Stone pine - Pinus pinea