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December 22, 2014 | 30th Kislev 5775

Sunflowers

Galilee Diary #542, July 20, 2011
Marc Rosenstein

The sea of grain is waving
The song of the flock rings out
This is my land and its fields
This is the Jezreel Valley
May my land be blessed and praised
From Bet Alfa to Nahalal.
-from "The Song of the Valley," Nathan Alterman, 1935

Tammuz is here. The weather forecast each morning is telegraphic: "Same as yesterday." Driving through the broad fields of the Jezreel Valley, you see that the grain has all been harvested; the fields are brown stubble and giant bales of hay stand about, tilted at odd angles where they rolled off the baling machine, except for the ones lashed onto double trailer rigs that seem to be laboring up every hill on every two-lane road in the Galilee (in front of me). Makeshift corn and melon and watermelon stands have sprung up like weeds along the highways. There are vast green fields of cotton. And sunflowers, with their heavy heads bowed, as if to hide their transition from smiling flower-face to a black and white mass of seeds whose close-packed diamond shapes seem crystalline. Years ago, a teen group I was accompanying on an Israel tour spent their kibbutz stint helping with the sunflower harvest. Our task was to go through the field and harvest only heads over a certain size - for seed for planting, as the kibbutz was interested in breeding a high-yield variety. I had always just thought of sunflowers as a decorative plant, and was surprised and impressed by these geometrically perfect arrays of thousands of seeds on heavy disks 8-10 inches across - on thousands of plants spread across vast fields, their heads all bowed in the same direction. And it was neat to snack on them as we worked our way down the rows.

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