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Israel Environment & Nature: Squill

SQUILL (Heb. חָצָב, ḥaẓav (mish.) or חֲצוּב, ḥaẓuv), the Urginea maritima, a plant with a very large bulb that grows wild in almost every district of Israel.

It lies dormant in the summer, its leaves withering, but later a stalk with a large inflorescence bearing hundreds of flowers bursts out of the bulb. The roots are very long and descend vertically into the earth as if digging into it, and some connect its name (ḥaẓav; "to dig") with this characteristic. Because of this the squill was sometimes used for demarcating fields (cf. BB 55a). According to tradition Joshua marked out with it the boundaries of Israel and of the tribes (TJ, Pe'ah 2:1, 16d). It was said that "the squill cripples the wicked" (Beẓah 25b), because it prevents them from removing the boundaries. The rind of its bulb is juicy and was used by some for implanting fig shoots (Kil. 1:8; so too Theophrastus, Historia Plantarum, 2:5, 5). Its leaves and bulb contain poisonous matter and few animals eat it. According to the baraita (Shab. 128a) it was eaten by gazelles and Noah prepared "squills for the gazelles" (Gen. R. 31:14) in the ark.

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