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R&V Reflections: The Miracle Seed by Martin Lemelman

The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

Not too long ago, ancient date palm seeds found in the ruins of the palace of Herod the Great in Masada, Israel, were brought back to life through the careful work of two female scientists. Human activity and changing weather and growing conditions contributed to the extinction of the Judean date palm around 1,000 years ago, but thanks to Dr. Sarah Sallon and Dr. Elaine Solowey, the date palm is alive and well today!

We shared the story on Root & Vine News back in 2021, and now, young readers can delight in an illustrated version of this miracle of science and God, the rebirth of the Judean date palm.

The Miracle Seed by Martin Lemelman

The Miracle Seed © (2023) Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. 

The Miracle Seed by Martin Lemelman is a graphic novel in three parts. The first part tells the story of the conflict between Rome and Israel that resulted in the destruction of Masada, Israel, 2,000 years ago. The Romans drove the Israelites out of Masada and demolished the city, including many of the revered Judean date palms in the region. When the Israelites fled the area, they left behind all kinds of items, including a jar holding Judean date palm seeds.

Part Two of The Miracle Seed illustrates the journey of hope born from these ruins. After 2,000 years, archaeologists uncovered the jar of Judean date palm seeds, miraculously preserved in the desert’s arid conditions, and forty years later, Doctors Sallon and Solowey began their meticulous work germinating those ancient seeds. 

From the rubble of an ancient, crumbled city, new life was born. What once was lost, now is found.

The Judean date palm is the first plant to ever be brought back to life from extinction. 

The Miracle Seed is an inspiring tale of perseverance, redemption, and restoration. Lemelman’s illustrations bring ancient history to colorful and vibrant life, helping young readers connect with the suffering and sacrifice of the Israelites in Rome as well as the hope and joy of the modern-day scientists and archaeologists as they work to restore what was lost. The graphic novel also illustrates seed and plant anatomy, germination, pollination, and overall plant health to capture why this task of resurrecting ancient seeds was especially challenging… not to mention the everyday miracle infused in all plant life. 

Everything the scientists did—and named—was infused with tradition and meaning from Jewish heritage. The seeds were planted on the Jewish New Year of Trees. Their sprouts are named for characters in Scripture. In Part Three, Lemelman shares the final story of rebirth and the search for a female partner for the male Judean date palm.

As a young reader, it was the work of other writers that helped me dream of possibilities for my own future. Maybe, just maybe, I could tell stories, too. 

In The Miracle Seed, Lemelman makes it possible for young people, especially girls, to imagine themselves as dedicated and passionate scientists, bringing to life new ideas, discovering new cures, and exploring the depths and reach of God’s creation. Maybe, just maybe, they can restore creation, too.

The first Judean fruits to bear from the resurrected date trees. Image: The Arava Institute for Environmental Studies

The Miracle Seed captivates, educates, and entertains future aspiring scientists and those who wonder at the mysteries and miracles made possible through science and with God. “Who knows what wonders lie ahead?” a character in The Miracle Seed asks. Who knows what future generations of scientists and lovers of creation alike will be inspired to try because of this sweet and miraculous story.

About the Author: Lemelman has illustrated over 30 children’s books. He is the author of two graphic novels. His work has been published in magazines ranging from The New York Times Book Review to Sesame Street Magazine. The Miracle Seed is written for children ages 8-14. It is available March 28, 2023 from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. Order directly from the publisher, from Amazon, or from your favorite bookseller.

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