Tests conducted on olive trees on Jerusalem’s historic Mount of Olives are the oldest known trees in the world, according to a study released on Friday conducted by the National Research Council of Italy Trees and Timber Institute.
Trees from the Garden of Gethsemane, in an area taken over by a triumvirate of Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches, were dated back to the years 1092, 1166, and 1198, according to the study which was done with the participation of 5 Italian universities.
Chief Researcher Professor Antonio Cimato said at a presentation of the results in Rome that there are no plants of greater age cited in scientific literature.
Analysis of DNA from the trees indicated that they came from the same parent plant.
The study was publicized – seemingly unintentionally – at the same time as Jewish people around the world studied and read the weekly Torah portion which corresponded this week to Parshat Noah, in which the story of the flooding of the world, and its redemption through the biblical figure Noah is told. In the story, Noah released a dove to bring back signs of life after the flood. The dove returned with an olive branch in its beak – which Jewish tradition teaches was plucked from a tree on the Mount of Olives.
The Mount of Olives is the location of the world’s largest and most ancient Jewish cemetery. It sits just above the site of King David’s capital city, and was a location of significance for work pertaining to service in the Holy Temples. According to biblical prophecy in the Book of Zechariah, the Messiah will arrive on the Mount of Olives, before descending to redeem Jerusalem.