Neither the orange nor any other variety of citrus appears among the seven products of the biblical "land of wheat and barley and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates… of olive-trees and honey" (Deut. 8:8). The only reference to citrus in the Bible is the "fruit of the goodly tree" (Lev. 23:40) identified with the *etrog. The etrog reached Ereẓ Israel probably during the Second Temple period and became widespread because of its use on the *Sukkot festival (cf. Suk. 4:9; Tosef. ibid., 3:16). The sour lemon, also called the bitter Seville orange, and the sweet lemon were introduced in the Middle Ages by Arab merchants. The orange made its appearance in the early 18th century, apparently from Portugal, after which it is called in Arabic burtuqāl. The little mandarin called "Youssouf Effendi" was imported from Egypt early in the 19th century. The clementine, a variety of mandarin introduced into Algeria by a monk called Père Clément, was brought to Palestine after World War i, as was the Spanish Valencia Late, now known as the Jaffa Late. A few grapefruit trees were grown in Petaḥ Tikvah around 1900 and a few years later in Aaron *Aaronsohn's agricultural experimental station. In 1913 an agronomist on Baron Edmond de Rothschild's staff brought grafts of the Marsh Seedless grapefruit from the United States and taught local growers American methods of cultivation, packing, and marketing. With the growth of citrus exports, Jewish citrus growers lengthened the marketing season by introducing early and late-ripening varieties; as many as 200 varieties were cultivated in experimental stations. Commercial varieties are (in order of ripening dates): clementines, navel orange, grapefruit, Shamouti (Jaffa) orange, and Jaffa Late. Other varieties are still in the experimental stage. The Shamouti, the variety known commercially as the Jaffa, is oval, seedless, easily peeled because of its thickish skin, has a high sugar content, and is not damaged by transportation. For a time extreme orthodox circles preferred etrogim from Corfu for the celebration of Sukkot because of the fear that the Ereẓ Israel variety was from grafted trees and therefore invalid. These scruples were met however by the development of a non-grafted strain, and only the most extremely religious Jews insist on etrogim from Corfu.
Until 1914 citriculture developed slowly. During the 1913–14 season 1,300,000 cases of citrus were exported, about 70% of them to the United Kingdom. During World War i exports practically ceased and locusts ravaged many of the orange groves. By 1918 only about 30,000 dunams (4 dunams = 1 acre) remained under citrus in the entire country, about one-third owned by Jews. During the period between the two World Wars (1919–39) citriculture expanded tenfold to cover about 300,000 dunams, over half the area being in Jewish hands. During World War ii export by sea was impossible and the crops could be sold only to neighboring countries, to the local population, and to newly established juice factories. Government loans assisted the growers to irrigate the groves, but by the end of the war the area had been reduced to 180,000 dunams. During the War of Independence in 1948, most of the Arab growers left the territory that became independent Israel, and their groves were taken over by the Custodian of Absentee Property.
The government of Israel encouraged extensive new citrus plantations and the modernization of packing houses, extended the facilities of Haifa port, and built a modern port at Ashdod. The Citrus Control and Marketing Boards, established in the Mandatory period, were reorganized. The citrus area of 430,000 dunams planted within the borders of Israel was divided as follows: Shamouti (Jaffa) oranges, 236,000 dunams; late (Valencia-type) oranges, 85,000 dunams; grapefruit, 65,000 dunams; lemons, 19,000 dunams; navel oranges, 12,000 dunams; others, 13,000 dunams
In the 1967–68 season all fruit was packed and shipped either in Bruce boxes (lightweight crates) – about 70% of the total – or in cartons weighing about 20 kilograms net. Some 38 million boxes and cartons were shipped, consisting of Shamouti oranges, 21,200,000; grapefruit, 7,500,000; late oranges, 7,350,000; lemons, 1,200,000; navel oranges, 750,000.
Major importers of Israel citrus in 1968 were the United Kingdom (25% of total export) and West Germany (24%), with France, Holland, Belgium, and Sweden taking from 5 to 9% each. Citrus was then the third largest source of foreign currency in Israel after diamonds and tourism, but 80% of citrus income remained in the country, in contrast with 25% of diamond income. About 75,000 tons of citrus fruit of second quality were sold in bulk to the local population, and some 340,000 tons of culls were supplied to the juice factories. At the time Israel ranked third in the Mediterranean area, after Spain and Italy, in production of citrus fruit and second as a citrus exporter, being surpassed only by Spain. Israel was a founding member of the Comité de Liaison de l'Agrumiculture Mediterranéenne, whose other members are Spain, Italy, Morocco, Tunisia, and France.
During the 1970s citriculture in Israel faced its first severe crisis. A devaluation of the British pound led to a drop in profits. As a consequence, total grove area decreased from 430,000 dunams to 300,000. The next crisis took place in the 1990s, when three dry years led to a reduction in agriculture water quotas by 50%. Most farmers chose to reduce grove areas, the total now falling to 175,000 dunams. This led to a substantial reduction in fruit production. In the early 2000s Israel's citrus groves yielded about 500,000–600,000 tons of fruit a year compared with 1.5 million in the 1970s. As a result, much of the "Jaffa" fruit sold around the world is no longer produced in Israel but in other countries, which pay for the use of the name.
I. Rokach, Pardesim Mesapperim (1970). add. bibliography: Y. Dror, "There's No Such Thing as a Jaffa in the World," in: Ha'aretz (Heb., Sept. 12, 2004).
[Isaac Rokach /
Shaked Gilboa (2nd ed.)]
cit·rus / ˈsitrəs/ • n. (pl. citruses) a tree of the rue family belonging to the genus Citrus, which includes citron, lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit. Native to Asia, citrus trees are widely cultivated in warm countries for their fruit, which has juicy flesh and pulpy rind. ∎ (also citrus fruit) a fruit from such a tree. • adj. (also citrous) of or relating to these trees or their fruits. DERIVATIVES: cit·rus·y adj. .