All opinions expressed are those of the writer.
“If He dresses the lilies with beauty and splendor, how much more will he clothe you?”
-“Jireh” by Elevation Music, 2021
Consider the lilies. Throughout Scripture, wildflowers remind us of humanity’s frailty and God’s faithfulness. We flourish and fade like the flowers of the field. Yet our souls are sustained by the God of living waters whose mercies are new every morning and who lavishes mere lilies in a splendor that outshines the richest of kings.
A small selection of spring flowers found in the Holy Land:
Arrayed in vivid shades of vermillion, lavender, pink and white, Anemones blanket Israel from Galilee to the northern Negev. Darom Adom (Hebrew for “red south”) is an annual festival where Israelis flock to the Negev to wander through fields of red anemones. Like the cherry blossom festivals of Japan, the anemones (kolanit in Hebrew) are some of Israel’s first harbingers of spring.
Similar to the bluebonnets of Texas and the lupines of New England, this striking indigo flower grows en masse during the spring. Lupins can be found across Israel, but they are especially suited to the Valley of Elah, where a young David once defeated the Philistine giant, Goliath.
Often referred to as Israel’s national flower, cyclamen grace both rocky mountaintops and verdant woodlands from January to April. Ranging in shades of pink, white purple and red, cyclamen are found in floral departments across America around Easter. Cyclamen are associated with several ancient legends. King Solomon is said to have had a crown of cyclamens. When a cyclamen’s blossoms droop (which often occurs) it is said that the flower is mourning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Flax and Mustard
Both cultivated for food, flax and mustard grow in abundance along the wayside in Israel. Flax produces small blue flowers, while mustard plants grow in reckless abandon. Prolific and beautiful, their waist-high yellow stalks shimmer and sway in the wind like waves. It is fitting that the Gospels compare faith to a mustard seed; it only takes a few small seeds planted along waysides and unlikely places to turn vast fields the color of gold.
Like the dandelion, cornflowers can be both a flower and a weed. This hardy thistle—especially common in the Golan Heights—produces small blue blooms long after most other flowers succumbed to the heat of the summer. Thistles, associated with barrenness and difficulty from Genesis to the Gospels, can also represent endurance and (in a prickly sort of way) beauty.
Pink and White Cistus
Similar in appearance to Rose of Sharon, Cistus has long been associated with myrrh, one of the three gifts given to the Baby Jesus. Myrrh was used as an ingredient for incense, anointing oil, and temple sacrifice.
Narcissus, Tulips and Irises
The wild ancestors of some of the Western world’s most famous spring flowers originate in the Middle East—often in miniature yet equally enchanting versions. These flowers are beloved by all in the Middle East. The tulip (laleh in Farsi) is even emblazoned on Iran’s flag.
Blooming from April to June, this flower has deep symbolism for Near Eastern Christians and Jews. Known in Hebrew as Dam Hamakabim “Blood of the Maccabees,” it is often said that this plant grows wherever human blood has been shed. Like the poppy in Europe, this plant has become an icon for Israel’s remembrance day—Yom HaZikaron—honoring the memory of fallen soldiers and victims of terrorism.
Red Everlasting is also associated with sacrifice in Arab communities –albeit under a different name —dam al-Massiah– the blood of Christ the Messiah.
Josephus describes the crown of the temple high priest as being modeled after the Henbane plant. Though poisonous if ingested without treatment, Henbane was often used by the ancients as sedatives.
The mountains of Israel are an ideal home for countless varieties of roses. Jerusalem is home to the Wohl Rose Garden: located just outside the Knesset, this public park is graced by 400 different varieties of roses and 15,000 rose bushes. Beloved Christmas carols in England and Germany compare Christ to a spotless rose. In the Jewish tradition, a rose among thorns symbolizes Israel among the nations. Rose blooms also are associated with creation and revelation.
“Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land” -Song of Songs 2:12 (ESV)
After the winter rains, the hills of Galilee break forth into a breathtaking abundance of wildflowers. No matter what season of life you find yourself in, remember to reflect on the lilies. Consider their beauty. Rejoice that the God who clothed them in such splendor carries you in the palm of His hand.
Learn More about the flowers of Israel:
The Jerusalem Botanical Garden Homepage