Dr. Paul on cultivating the seeds of hope during tough times

Take a lesson from the Judean date palm. A doctor dreamed bringing the extinct fruit back to life — and she did.

Dr. Sarah Sallon had a dream: to bring the Judean date palm, the tamar, back to life after 800 years of extinction.

An Israeli pediatric gastroenterologist, she knew the age-old reputed claims of this particular date’s strong medicinal properties, including the ability to help with digestive disorders. Could the claims be true?

The ancient forests of Judean date trees harbored 8-foot-tall palms and stretched for 7 miles long. Known for their succulent sweetness, they provided the fabled honey — along with figs — of the land of milk and honey. Engraved on coins and synagogue walls, they were symbols of prosperity, sweetness and grace. The biblical King David named his daughter Tamar. Julius Caesar bestowed Judean dates on Cleopatra.

This month, Sallon and dry agriculture specialist Elaine Soloway recited two Jewish blessings, one for the fruit of a tree, and one for unusual circumstances. Then they sampled the Judean date that they had grown from 2,000-year-old seeds discovered in archaeological finds. It took 15 years of painstaking effort and loving care to reach this moment.

Nobody had ever done anything like this before, and they had no idea how the dates would taste. They were sweet and tender. They named the two Judean palm trees, which come in male and female, Methuselah, for the papa tree, and Hannah, the fruitful mother.

Their dream had become a reality.

In these dark times, hope is in short supply. We need inspiration.

Every day, in my work as a clinical psychologist, I listen to adults share their fears, their sadness, their isolation and their pain. The global pandemic and the division in our country has been hard on all of us, but especially for young people.

I’m nearing 70 and have lived a full and meaningful life. I’ve raised a family and established a career at The Everett Clinic. I’ve lived through hard times — the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Vietnam War, social unrest in the 1960s, the assassination of JFK, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, a deep recession in the 1970s, and then again in 2008.

I have learned in my long life that in tough times, it’s important to nurture hope. It’s important to remember that change will come.

Hope comes in many forms. It requires imagination, patience and perseverance. The same qualities that brought the Judean date palm out of antiquity into the modern era.

In my nearly seven decades, I have seen great changes born from the seeds of hope — the end of apartheid in South Africa, Nelson Mandela freed from jail to become the president of South Africa, the fall of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and many other changes that I could never have imagined in my early 20s.

During these challenging times, it’s especially important for us to cultivate our dreams. At some point we will be able to hug each other, visit with loved ones, travel, see friends and family — and for me, play with my grandchildren. We will be able to go to the movies, restaurants and to sports events.

Our lives will ripen, like the Judean date palm. And, at the end of this pandemic, we will have learned many important lessons, and we will be stronger and better for enduring our hardships. And like Soloway and Sallon, we will be able to harvest the fruit of our dreams.

Be patient, be determined and don’t forget to dream.

Paul Schoenfeld is a clinical psychologist at The Everett Clinic. His Family Talk blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com.family-talk-blog.

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