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Israel Environment & Nature: Tortoise

TORTOISE (Mod. Heb. צָב), a reptile. In Israel there are several species of both land and water tortoises; the latter lives in both sweet and salt water.

Some commentators identify the צָב (ẓav), enumerated among the unclean reptiles (Lev. 11:29), with the tortoise, and on this basis it is so called in modern Hebrew. According to rabbinical sources, however, the ẓav is a species of *lizard . Thus the expression "the ẓav after its kind" is explained as including the salamander and other reptiles which bear no resemblance to the tortoise (see Sifra 6:5). Similarly a resemblance between the ẓav and the snake is mentioned (Ḥul. 127a), and the ḥardon, a species of lizard of the family of Agamidae (TJ, Ber. 8:6, 12b). From this last source it is apparent that "the ẓav after its kind" includes the Agamidae family, of which six species are found in Israel, the largest of which is the Uromastix aegyptius called in Arabic dabb. It is found in the Negev and the Arabah and is herbivorous. The Bedouin hunt it and regard its flesh as a great delicacy.

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