Author: Avi Tal


The encounter of medieval Jewish scholars with Arabic linguistic literature during the last decades of the tenth century CE produced one of the most important branches of Hebrew linguistics, namely, that of comparative Semitic philology. This branch not only changed the nature of Hebrew philology but influenced considerably the philological exegesis of the Bible as well.

The main contribution to biblical philology, then as now, is in the area of decoding and explaining esoteric expressions and hapax legomena whose meaning was obscure as well as elucidating unclear syntactic structures. This literary activity spread in the Arabic-speaking area from Iraq in the east, through the Holy Land, Egypt and North Africa, to Andalusia in the west.

This article discusses the comparison between Hebrew and Arabic as an exegetical method in a commentary on the Bible written by Rabbi Tanḥum ha-Yerushalmi (Egypt, 1219–1291), who wrote in Judaeo-Arabic. Tanḥum’s commentary reflects an assimilation or an absorption of advanced linguistic knowledge, to which he was exposed as an eclectic exegete well informed in the Arabic grammatical tradition. As the article shows, Tanḥum did not hesitate to adopt and even improve notions and insights that he had found in the writings of Arab grammarians. It seems therefore that one should refer to him as an eclectic exegete who succeeded in innovating by suggesting some original commentaries, in a period which has been defined in modern research as a period of stagnation (from 1250 to 1550 CE).

In: From Sībawayhi to ʾAḥmad Ḥasan al-Zayyāt: New Angles on the Arabic Linguistic Tradition

Ecosystems of mixed woody and herbaceous vegetation are under increasing pressure and threat from human activity and global climate changes. Many processes that shape these ecosystems remain poorly understood despite their large geographic extent, the services they provide, and their importance for wildlife and livestock. Some of these processes occur simultaneously on small and large scales; therefore their study requires methodologies that combine high spatial resolution with large spatial extent. In this study, we explored the phenomenon of rings—"circlets"—of relatively dense herbaceous biomass that seem to occur around patches of Sarcopoterium spinosum in the semiarid northern Negev. We developed a novel, non-destructive method to estimate herbaceous biomass at a high spatial resolution, over an area of 1500 m2. Steps in the study process included: low-altitude aerial photography, image rectification, delineation of shrub patches, computation of herbaceous biomass in the intershrub area, and analysis of herbaceous biomass as a function of distance from the nearest shrub. Our results confirmed the existence of circlets, and we estimated their width to be approximately 10 cm. Herbaceous biomass at the peak of the green season was approximately 40% greater in the circlet than in the remainder of the intershrub area. Circlets are probably an important feature of the ecosystem; since they covered ca. 20% of the intershrub area, their contribution to primary (herbaceous) production at the ecosystem level, and, in turn, to secondary production, is substantial. We discuss possible mechanisms in the creation of circlets, as well as the possible implications of circlets for range management and improvement.

In: Israel Journal of Plant Sciences