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CEDARS OF GOD

CEDARS OF GOD

The Cedars of God (Arabic: أرز الربّ Horsh Arz el-Rab “Cedars of the Lord”) is one of the last vestiges of the extensive forests of the Cedars of Lebanon (Cedrus libani ) that thrived across Mount Lebanon in ancient times. Their timber was exploited by the Phoenicians, the Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. The wood was prized by Egyptians for shipbuilding; the Ottoman Empire also used the cedars in railway construction.

History
The mountains of Lebanon were once shaded by thick cedar forests and the tree is the symbol of the country. After centuries of persistent deforestation, the extent of these forests has been markedly reduced.

It was once said that a battle occurred between the demigods and the humans over the beautiful and divine forest of Cedar trees near southern Mesopotamia.This forest, once protected by the God Enlil, was completely bared of its trees when humans entered its grounds 4 700 years ago, after winning the battle against the guardians of the forest, the demigods.The story also tells that Gilgamesh used cedar wood to build his city.

Over the centuries, cedar wood was exploited by the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Romans, the Israelites and the Turks.The Phoenicians used the Cedars for their merchant fleets. They needed timbers for their ships and the Cedar woods made them the “first sea trading nation in the world” The Egyptians used cedar resin for the mummification process and the cedar wood for some of “their first hieroglyph bearing rolls of papyrus”. King Solomon procured cedar timber to build his temple in Jerusalem. However the Emperor Hadrian claimed these forests to be an “imperial domain”, and destruction of the cedar forests was temporarily halted.

Concern for the biblical “cedars of God” goes back to 1876, when the 102-hectare (250-acre) grove was surrounded by a high stone wall, paid for by Queen Victoria, to protect saplings from browsing by goats. Nevertheless during World War I, British troops used cedar to build railroads.

Time, along with the exploitation of the Cedars’ wood, has led to a decrease in the number of Cedar trees in Lebanon. However Lebanon is still known for its Cedars, as they are the emblem of the country and the symbol of the Lebanese flag. The trees survive in mountainous areas, where they are the dominant tree species. This is the case on the slopes of Mount Makmel that tower over the Kadisha Valley, where the Cedars of God are found at an altitude of more than 2,000 meters (6,600 ft). Four trees have reached a height of 35 meters (115 ft). and their trunks are 12–14 meters (39–46 ft) around.

World Heritage Site
In 1998, the Cedars of God were added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Current status
The forest is rigorously protected. It is possible to tour it escorted by an authorized guide. After a preliminary phase in which the land was cleared of detritus, the sick plants treated, and the ground fertilized, the “Committee of the Friends of the Cedar Forest” initiated a reforestation program in 1985. These efforts will only be appreciable in a few decades due to the slow growth of cedars. In these areas the winter offers incredible scenery, and the trees are covered with a blanket of snow.

Religious texts

The Lebanon Cedars, in the Cedar Forest of Mesopotamian mythology, are in several sections of the Epic of Gilgamesh.

The Lebanon Cedar is frequently mentioned in the Bible.Example verses include:

“Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.” (Zechariah 11:1, 2)

“He moves his tail like a cedar; The sinews of his thighs are tightly knit.” (Job 40:17)

“The priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet stuff, and cast them into the midst of the burning of the heifer” (Numbers 19:6)

“The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon” (Psalm 29:5)

“The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar in Lebanon” (Psalm 92:12)

“I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive” (Isaiah 41: 19)

“Behold, I will liken you to a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches and forest shade” (Ezekiel 31:3)

“I destroyed the Amorite before them, whose height was like the height of the cedars” (Amos 2:9)

“The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly, the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.” (Psalm 104:16 NRSV)

[King Solomon made] cedar as plentiful as the sycamore-fig trees in the foothills. (1 Kings 10:27, NIV, excerpt)

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