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Israel Environment & Nature: Mallow

MALLOW, plant of the genus Malva.

Six species are found in Israel, the most common, found in almost every part of the country, being the Malva nicaensis, Malva silvestris, and Malva parviflora. During the siege of Jerusalem in 1948 the citizens of Jerusalem picked them and prepared from them a variety of dishes. The mallow is popularly known by its Arabic name khubeiza which means "small loaf," because its edible seeds are flat and round like Arab bread (pittah). Job characterizes "the juice of ḥallamut" ("mallow") as insipid, so that even in his distress "my soul refuses to touch them; they are as the sickness of my flesh" (Job 6:6). Despite this, the name ḥallamut or ḥelmit in the Mishnah appears to be connected with halam meaning "healthy." It may be, however, the same as laḥmit, through transposition of letters, which has the same connotation as its Arabic name "small bread." The Mishnah refers to ḥelmit as a vegetable (Kil. 1:8) and the Arukh of Nathan b. Jehiel identifies it with Malva (mallow). The leaves of some mallows are sensitive to light, and Rashi in his commentary on the vegetable adani (Shab. 35b) notes: "It is a vegetable called malva whose leaves turn to the sun. In the morning they incline eastward, at midday they are upright, and in the evening they incline westward." The identification of the ḥallamut of the Bible with mallow is not certain, and it has been identified with many other plants. The JPS renders ḥallamut as "mallow" (AV: "white of egg"), while the AV renders malu'aḥ in Job 30:4 as "mallow" (JPS correctly as "saltwort"; see *Orach ).

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