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Trees for Christian Pilgrims

Every tour guide in Israel must recognize and point out to Christian pilgrims at least these two trees relevant to Christian tradition :- the Judas Tree and the Rosebud Tree. Learn more here about trees for Christian pilgrims. Many flowers, plants and trees are used as symbols in Christian art and architecture. The most popular tree in the Christian world is the evergreen conifer (spruce, pine, or fir) used for Christmas trees.

The Judas Tree

Cercis siliquastrum or redbud tree (klil hahoresh in Hebrew) is a small deciduous tree from Southern Europe and Western Asia which is noted for its prolific display of deep pink flowers in spring. They are planted up and down both sides of the street on which I live. By tradition, Judas hung himself on a redbud tree. For centuries the Cercis siliquastrum has been called the “Judas tree.” Its once-white blossoms blushed with shame to be part of such a suicide. See Matthew chapter 26 and Matthew 27:1-5. Then again, perhaps it’s called the Judas Tree because the clusters of blossoms sometimes hang from the branches, suggesting a hanging man. Franco-philes claim that it is just a mistake: its French name–”Tree of Judea”– being misunderstood as “Tree of Judas.” Who knows?

I wonder if the garden designer who created the boulevard of redbud trees, where I live in Israel, was aware of this symbolism.


Redbud Tree
Redbud Tree

Ziziphus spina-christi

Christ’s Thorn Jujube (Shizaf in Hebrew, Sidriaya or Dom in Arabic) is an evergreen spiny shrub and small tree in the buckthorn family distributed in the warm-temperate and subtropical regions throughout the world. The fruit is an edible, often very sweet and sugary, reminiscent of a date in texture and flavour. It grows in Israel in valleys up to an elevation of 500m. By some traditions it isthe tree from which Jesus’s Crown of Thorns was made. The elevation of Jerusalem (754 m) is much too high for this tree and so it is not likely that the tradition is correct.

Ziziphus spina-christi - spine
Ziziphus spina-christi – spine


Crown thorns

What kind of wood was used to build the the True Cross?

  • There is a legend that the cross was made of dogwood (Cornus).
  • The Latin legend describes how the true cross came from three trees which grew from three seeds from the “Tree of Mercy” (Tree of Life). Seth collected the seeds and planted them in the mouth of Adam’s corpse. The tree was cut down and the wood used to build a bridge over which the Queen of Sheba passed, on her journey to meet King Solomon. She revered the bridge’s wood. She told Solomon that a piece of wood from the bridge would bring about the replacement of God’s Covenant by a new order. Solomon, fearing the eventual destruction of his people, had the timber buried. But after fourteen generations, the wood taken from the bridge was fashioned into the Cross used to crucify Christ.
  • The Eastern Orthodox Church retells that the True Cross was made from three different types of wood: cedar, pine and cypress that were used to construct the Temple in Jerusalem. During Herod’s reconstruction of the Temple, the wood from these trees was removed from the Temple and discarded, eventually being used to construct the cross on which Jesus was crucified.

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