Pistacia palaestina, Turpentine Tree, Terebinth Tree,
Hebrew: אלה ארץ-ישראלית, Arabic: بطم فلسطيني

Scientific name:  Pistacia palaestina Boiss.
Common name:  Turpentine tree, terebinth tree
Hebrew name:  אלה ארץ-ישראלית
Arabic name:  بطم فلسطيني
Family:  Anacardiaceae, אלתיים

Pistacia palaestina, Turpentine Tree, Terebinth Tree,ببطم أطلسي, אלה ארץ-ישראלית

Life form:  Phanerophyte, tree
Stems:  Deciduous, 3-5 m in height, a single trunk, brown to reddish
Leaves:  Alternate, compound, pinnate
Flowers:  Pink
Fruits / pods:  Drupe, ovoid-globular, brownish-bluish, 5 mm in diameter
Flowering Period:   March, April
Habitat:   Mediterranean maquis and forest
Distribution:   The Mediterranean Woodlands and Shrublands, Semi-steppe shrublands
Chorotype:  Mediterranean
Summer shedding:  Perennating

Bloemen in Israel, Wilde bloemen

Derivation of the botanical name:
Pistacia, pistacium (Latin), "pistachio nut", from Greek pistakion, from pistakē, the Greek name for the nut, perhaps from Middle Persian *pistak. "Pistacium" was the basis of Linnaeus' name Pistacia for the genus.
palaestina, of or from Palestine.
Terebinth, (Latin) terebinthus, from Greek terébinthos, turpentine tree.
Incisions in the stem and branches yield the Chian (pertaining to Chios, an island in the Aegean Sea), or Cyprus turpentine.
It yielded probably the earliest-known form of turpentine, said to have been used in medicine by the ancient Greeks. This is why the tree is also called "turpentine tree.
The Hebrew name: אלה, elâh, used for the Pistacia is and like that of the oak, stems from the Hebrew el (God), associated with strenght and sturdiness.
The Valley of "Elah", where David went and killed the giant Goliath (I Samuel 17:2-49), received its name from the Pistacia trees growing there.
The Hebrew words "êl, "êlâh", and "êlîm", refer to the Pistacia, but, "âllâh", "allôn", and "êlôn" to the Quercus.
  • The standard author abbreviation Boiss. is used to indicate Pierre Edmond Boissier (1810 – 1885), a Swiss botanist, explorer and mathematician.

In Israel there are 5 species of Pistacia:
1) P. lentiscus; 2) P. atlantica; 3) P. saportae Burnat; 4) P. palaestina; 5) P. khinjuk Stocks.
  • Genesis 18:8 - "He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree."
  • Judges 6:11 - The angel of the LORD came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. (The Midrash lends its support to the theory that the "oaks" were really terebinths.)
  • 1 Samuel 17:2 & 19 - "Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah" ..."They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines."
  • Isaiah 6:13 - "And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land."
  • Josephus Flavius, The Jewish Wars, book IV,533: "At a distance of six furlongs from the town there is also a huge terebinth tree which is said to have stood there ever since the creation." Under this terebinth the captive Jews were sold by Titus Vespasian in 69 CE., and it is supposed to be the tree under which Abraham entertained the three angels (Genesis 18:8).
  • Salminius Hermias Sozomenus (Σωζομενός) (c. 400 - c. 450), historian of the Christian church, in his book: Historia Ecclesisstica II, 4. GCS 50, 54-56:"I deem necessary to declare now what was resolved about the oak of Mambre by Emperor Constantine. The place is presently called the Terebinth, and is situated at the distance of fifteen stadia from Hebron, which is to the south... Every year, at summer time, the inhabitants of that place and the Palestinians, the Phoenicians and the Arabs, coming from far away, make a fair there. Many come there for the sake of business, some to sell and some to buy. The feast is celebrated by a very big congregation of Jews, since they boast of Abraham as their forefather, of heathens since angels came there, of Christians since he who should be born from the Virgin for the salvation of humankind appeared there to that pious man. Everyone venerates this place according to his religion: some praying God the ruler of all, some calling upon the angels and offering libations of wine, burning incense or sacrificing an ox, a pig, a sheep or a cock... Constantine's mother in law (Euthropia), having come there to fulfill a vow, gave notice of all this to the Emperor. So he wrote to the bishops of Palestine reproaching them for having forgot their mission and permitted such a most holy place to be defiled by those libations and sacrifices".
The tree in Hebron died about 330 CE. and has been replaced by an oak. The Hebrew word in the text is "etz" (עץ)=tree.

Bible resources:
  1. Genesis 36:41
    Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon,
  2. 1 Samuel 17:2
    Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines.
  3. 1 Samuel 17:19
    They are with Saul and all the men of Israel in the Valley of Elah, fighting against the Philistines.”
  4. 1 Samuel 21:9
    The priest replied, “The sword of Goliath the Philistine, whom you killed in the Valley of Elah, is here; it is wrapped in a cloth behind the ephod. If you want it, take it; there is no sword here but that one.” David said, “There is none like it; give it to me.”
  5. 1 Kings 16:6
    Baasha rested with his ancestors and was buried in Tirzah. And Elah his son succeeded him as king.
  6. 1 Kings 16:8
    [ Elah King of Israel ] In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years.
  7. 1 Kings 16:9
    Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the palace administrator at Tirzah.
  8. 1 Kings 16:13
    because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols.
  9. 1 Kings 16:14
    As for the other events of Elah’s reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?
  10. 2 Kings 15:30
    Then Hoshea son of Elah conspired against Pekah son of Remaliah. He attacked and assassinated him, and then succeeded him as king in the twentieth year of Jotham son of Uzziah.

Pistacia palaestina, Turpentine Tree, Terebinth Tree,بطم أطلسي,אלה ארץ-ישראלית