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Israel Environment & Nature: Lizard

LIZARD (Heb. לְטָאָה), reptile included among the eight creeping things that are prohibited as food and whose dead body defiles anything with which it comes into contact (Lev. 11:30–39).

Talmudic literature states that its tail moves convulsively when cut off (Oho. 1:6), that in intense heat it remains immovable, stirring only when water is poured over it (Pes. 88b). Both features are characteristic of various species of lizard, but the reference is apparently mainly to those belonging to the family Lacertidae, of which four genera (that include ten species) are to be found in Israel. Of the Lacerta, the most common are the brown lizard (Lacerta laevis) and the great green lizard (Lacerta viridis) which is the largest and most beautiful of this family, is commonly found in the mountainous regions, and feeds on insects.

The dab lizard, which belongs to another family, is apparently to be identified with the צָב (ẓav), likewise included among the unclean creeping things.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.