Cannabis & the Levant
With the modern push for cannabis legalization across the Western world, we might think this is a brand new trend toward openness and acceptance of the power cannabis can have for users, both from a recreational and a wellness perspective.
But in fact, cannabis has been a longtime companion of the human race. The last century of prohibition is the exception, not the rule! Wherever human beings tended to be in history, we can find evidence for cannabis and other mind/mood altering chemicals infused into daily life.
Early Civilization & Cannabis
Traces of cannabis can be found along ancient Eurasian trade routes dating back to the Bronze Age. And in the Levant (the area that today contains Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and perhaps snippets of Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt), there is evidence for cannabis use in rituals and healing ceremonies as far back as
Cannabis & the Israelites
I hear you saying it now: “I went to Sunday school, I know bible stories — And I never ever heard about weed in the bible!”
Well, there are certainly interpretations that leave out cannabis. But in reading Exodus chapter 30, verse 23, which describe the holy announting oil for use in the ancient temple in Jerusalem, it says:
וְאַתָּה קַח-לְךָ, בְּשָׂמִים רֹאשׁ, מָר-דְּרוֹר חֲמֵשׁ מֵאוֹת, וְקִנְּמָן-בֶּשֶׂם מַחֲצִיתוֹ חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם; וּקְנֵה-בֹשֶׂם, חֲמִשִּׁים וּמָאתָיִם.
V’ata kach l’cha, b’samim rosh, mar-d’ror hamesh m’ot, v’kinman besem m’hatzito hamishim umataim, u’kane-bosem, hamishim umataim.
Take thou also unto thee the chief spices, of flowing myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty
The third spice listed here, traditionally translated as sweet calamus is pronounced ‘Kane-Bosem’ — and among more adventurous interpretations includes those that say this was, in fact, the term for cannabis nearly three thousand years ago.
In 2020, arcehologists at Tel Aviv University proudly announced evidence collected at the Tel Arad dig site revealed the residue from the local temple alter. Haaretz wrote:
The ancient Israelites used cannabis in their religious rituals, archaeologists were stunned to learn by analyzing charred residues on a 2,700-year-old altar unearthed in a desert shrine.
Why were they shocked? It’s right there in the book of Exodus. In any case, the presence of cannabis in the land is as old as the peoples written of in those bronze-age texts.
Cannabis & the Crusades
Cannabis had a role to play in the era of the Crusades as well. One of the European Crusaders’ most feared enemies were the Assasin. They were a heretical tribe of Islamic mercineries with a taste for a specific form of cannabis — hashish. From World History Encyclopedia:
The group was known as the Assassins by their enemies in reference to their use of hashish, ‘assassin’ being a corruption of the Arabic hasisi (‘hashish-eater’), and so the name has since come to be associated with their chief modus operandi, the act of murder for political or religious purposes. The Nizari Ismailis continue to exist as a branch of Islam today.
Hashish remains popular in the Middle East. And was once the most reliable and available form of cannabis in the region. As recently as 10 years ago, it was rare to see flower in casual use, for it was expensive, low-quality, and inconsistently available.
With the rise of the medical cannabis industry, and changing attitudes toward cannabis across developed societies, flower is king, as well as other high-end cannabis products like shatters, concentrates, and edibles.
But alas, Hashish, that tar-like residue so easily smuggled, cut, distributed, has fallen out of favor in most social and casual settings in Israel today.
Hey, speaking of Israel and cannabis today…
Israel & Cannabis Today
All of that is simply background. It’s context, and history. But in addition to being a biblical setting, an historical treasure trove, and a contraverscial piece of modern geopolitics, Israel of today is a modern, forward thinking, technological powerhouse.
From advances in application, cultivation and export of medical-grade cannabis to flirting with legalization again and again, the modern state of Israel is writing a new chapter in her realtionship with cannabis.
Israel Cannabis Review is here for you! Our goal is to simply report and review the state of cannabis in Israel today. We also provide the historical context, and cultural knowledge to understand a little bit about Israel through the lens of cannabis.