The Garden is in its thirtieth second season; it combines beauty, education, meditation and spiritual sustenance for thousands of visitors during each summer season. As one of only three biblical botanical gardens in North America, it has received many international visitors, study groups from universities, churches, and synagogues as well as those interested in establishing a similar garden.
The Garden displays more than 100 temperate and tropical plants grown in ancient Israel in a setting reminiscent of the land of Israel. The plants are displayed in a setting reminiscent of the Holy Land with a cascading waterfall, a small desert, a bubbling stream, the Jordan, which meanders through the garden from Lake Kineret to the Dead Sea. The biblical plant world was varied because of the topography.
As two thirds of the plants are Mediterranean or tropical, they must be brought in before the earliest frost and not placed into the garden again till all such danger has past. For this reason our season is limited to the three summer months. This means that several truckloads of plants must be carefully tended during the long winter months.
The Garden respects the love of the Bible which people throughout the world have displayed by naming plants for biblical figures. Although these plants were not grown in ancient Israel, we have planted a selection of them – specially labeled – to demonstrate this attachment to the Bible.
Ancient Near Eastern Horticulture and Agriculture
We are the only Garden devoted to the study of horticulture and agriculture of the ancient Near East and have sought to make this knowledge widely accessible through the creation of a special series of plantings and program each year. During each summer we emphasize a different aspect of ancient life and introduce twenty to thirty new plants along with educational displays, literature, and lectures by specialists.
Visitors are pleasantly surprised by these new displays and many return each summer. Our Garden has a large section devoted to these special themes. This represents a great deal of study, preparation, scheduling, location of hard to find plants, and growing plants for which little guidance is available.
Annual Special Displays – Educational Programs – Lectures – Publications
The Garden has mounted the following displays – plantings – literature – lectures
1988 – Forgotten Immigrants – Plants Introduced to Israel since the Bible
1989 – Drugs and Pharmaceuticals in the Early Biblical World
1990 – The Healing Past – Pharmaceuticals in the Late Biblical and Hellenistic World
1991 – Healing Then and Now – Pharmaceuticals through Five Thousand Years
1992 – 1492 – 1992 New World Plants in Europe and Israel
1993 – Fragrance through the Ages – Perfume, Incense, and Cosmetics
1994 – The Ageless Art of Dyeing – Colors from Nature from the Bible to the Present
1995 Grain and Bread from Ancient Israel to Ethnic America
1996 – Revisiting the Past – Highlights of a Decade
1997 – Papyrus to Paper
1998 – Beer from Ancient Israel to Our Time
1999 – The Thread of Life – Textiles from Plants
2001 – Botanical Symbols in World Religions
2002 – Botanical Symbols in Ancient World Religions
2003 – A Taste of Oil – Oil from Plants through 3000 Years
2004 – A Summer of Fragrance
2005 – Smell and Taste – Spices and Fragrances from Ancient Israel to our Time
2006 – Biblical People – How They Lived – Our Twentieth Anniversary
2007 – Aches and Pains in Ancient Times – Medicinal Plants from the Bible to Ancient Greece
2008 – “Land of Milk and Honey” – from the Bible to Israel’s 60th Anniversary
2009 – “Lookin’ Good” from the Bible to Us
2010 – “What Shall I Wear ?” Clothing in Ancient Egypt – Perfume in Modern Times
2011 – “Eat, Drink, and be Merry – Wine and Food in the Ancient World”
Aside from our annual lecture series which has dealt with each of these special themes, we have held three international symposia.
2012 “Plants in Daily Life – Israel – Mesopotamia – Egypt”
2013 “Botanical Symbols in World Religions”
2014 “Dining with Queen Esther – Food in the Late Biblical Period”
2015 “Paradise on Fifth Avenue – from the Bible to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam”
2016 “The Forests of Ancient Israel”
2017 “Pleasing God and Man: Taste and Smell- Spices and Incense”
2018 “Abraham and the Shepherds: The Search for Grains and Grasses”
Walter Jacob – Director
Helena Nichols – Associate Director
Marian Finegold – Tour coordinator and scheduler
Georgia Davidson along with others is the volunteer coordinator of our hostess and hosts. She works closely with this large group of women and men who greet our visitors. She is also one of our trained docents who regularly lead garden tours throughout the summer. She is also a docent at Phipps Conservatory and is generally active in the community.
Our founder, the late Irene Jacob, who established the Garden and led it for twenty six year possessed a strong background in the history of gardening with an emphasis on the ancient Near East. She was the former Education Coordinator of Phipps Conservatory and the founder of its docent program. Educated in Great Britain, Israel, and the United States, she taught economic botany at Chatham College and lectured extensively; she received various awards including the Vita Cultural Award. She is the author or co-author of several books including: BOTANICAL SYMBOLS IN WORLD RELIGIONS – A GUIDE, PLANTS OF THE BIBLE AND THEIR USES, THE HEALING PAST, FLORA, BIBLICAL PLANTS, FORGOTTEN IMMIGRANTS, GARDENS OF NORTH AMERICA AND HAWAII, and A TRIBUTE TO THE TREE.
She has also written a series of magazine articles as well as book-reviews in a variety of publications.
We have also published GARDENING FROM THE BIBLE TO NORTH AMERICA – Essays in Honor of Irene Jacob, 2003, ISBN 09-29699-149
The Garden is staffed entirely by volunteers. Our docents have led hundreds of tours through the year and answer thousands of questions during each season. Each summer they must learn about a new set of plants which make up our special exhibits.. Hostesses and hosts make our guests feel welcome. Others have helped with the physical maintenance of the Gardens
Our Summer Publication – Papyrus
The summer publication Papyrus is in its 21th year. Three issues are published during each summer. They deal with the specific themes of the year and present short, popular educational articles along with numerous illustrations connected with the themes. PapyruS may be found in leading horticultural libraries. Thousands of copies are distributed without charge each summer.
Extensive articles about us have appeared including:
Mark Kinnay, “the Biblical Plow” The Pittsburgh Tribune Review July 6, 2012. Michael Krivyanski, “Ancient Horticulture – Botanical Garden Focuses on Plants of the Holy L.” Pennsylvania Magazine May/June 2012and Justin Vellucci, Pittsburgh Tribune -Review (July 2007), Ruth Rovner, San Diego Jewish Times (July 2006), Joshua Runyan, Philadelphia Jewish Exponent (October 2005), Stan Szewezyk, Gateway Newspapers (August 2004), 2004 Sophia Wlodarszy “Biblical Gardens in the Dissemination of the Ideas of Holy Scripture”. in Suzanne Martinson, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, June, 2003, Carole McCray, “Bringing Plants of the Bible to Life,” People, Places, Plants, Summer 2003, Vincenzina Krymow, Healing Plants of the Bible (2002), The Jewish Woman International, (Summer 2002), People, Places and Plants 2003, Peg Streep, Spiritual Gardening (1999), William N. Hoffman. Unique and Unusual Places in the Mid-Atlantic Region (1995), The Herb Quarterly, (Fall 1994), the AAA Travel Guide, etc. In addition our special exhibits and the Garden have been regularly featured in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Wheeling Leader-Times, the Altoona Gazette, the Jewish Chronicle, The Pittsburgh Catholic, Gateway Publications, Miami Jewish Tribune, Palm Beach Jewish World, Hadassah Magazine, and numerous regional papers.
Documentaries of Garden have been made by Nathalie Berry (WQED 2008 and 2007), “Don Rigg’s Starting Today,” WQED 2000, and the Broadcasting Service of the Greensburg Diocese.
For additional information Email: Biblicalgarden@rodefshalom.org Call: (412) 621-6566 FAX (412) 621-5475.
4905 5th Avenue (opposite Carnegie-Mellon University), near U. of Pgh, Pittsburgh, PA. 10 minutes from downtown.