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“THE SPIDER SKILLFULLY GRASPS WITH ITS HANDS,
AND IT IS IN KINGS' PALACES"
PROVERBS 30:28
 

Ask Gila about Holy Land Spiders

  • This may be an unusual request, but then, maybe not!  I am seeking information about web-spinning spiders in the Holy Land area during the time Jesus lived there.   I've found information regarding spiders from many other places, but there seems to be very little available from your part of the world.  Do you have any knowledge of this, or possibly know someone else who does? 
    Margaret Cooper, Chicago, Illinois
Shalom Margaret.  This is indeed an unusual request.  In over a quarter of a century of guiding, no one has ever asked me about spiders.  But not to fear, I just spoke to our Holy Land Spider-Man.  His name is Pini Amitai.  Pini is a nickname for Pinchas or Phinehas, mentioned in the Bible. (Phinehas was the grandson of Aaron.)

Pini is in his late 70s and doesn't have email, so I interviewed him by phone.  For 33 years he taught about insects at Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  Today he is a sought-after volunteer lecturer at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo where he stores his collection of snakes, scorpions and spiders.  I once heard him give a riveting lecture to a class of Jerusalemite eighth-graders on the mating habits (i.e. sex life) of yellow scorpions, bull frogs, tortoises and sea horses.  All from personal observation!  Pini is also frequently consulted by doctors and nurses about types of insect and snake bites when they are treating patients.

Pini told me 2,000 years is not a long time for spiders.  They are very resilient and he thinks they will even be around 2,000 years from now.  (That is, if our man-produced pollution doesn’t kill them!)  They aren’t extinct like other Holy Land species, for example crocodiles, which were hunted and annihilated, because they were being used for food or leather.  Pini is the author of the best-selling “Children’s Colored Guide to Animals,” published in Hebrew which includes information on Holy Land spiders, according to color.  He writes that the following spiders are common in Israel:
 

• The Flower Crab Spider is yellow and found on yellow flowers, but it doesn’t spin a web.
• The Green Spider has on its underside short, dark hairs, like a brush, which it uses to weave its sleeping quarters and the place it lays its eggs.
• The Brown Spider, which is poisonous, is also found in the U.S. according to Pini.  It has 6 eyes, while other species of spiders normally have 8.  The brown spider spins a web, but not a large one, more like a woolen carpet.
• The Lobed Argiope is silver-colored with black rings on its long legs. The female weaves a gigantic web which can reach the size of a bicycle wheel – about 24 inches.

Lobed Argiope Spider

Black Widow Spider

Photo:  Pinchas Amitai

Photo:  Pinchas Amitai

Lobed Argiope

Black Widow Spider

 

• The Black Widow Spider has been here always.  Often this spider has red spots on its back and belly.  The threads of her web are very strong and any insect which dares to invade her “tent,” will be quickly entangled in her sticky web, which is very often located besides rocks and bushes.  There are 6 different species of Black Widow spiders in Israel.  One of them, the American Spider Widow, wouldn’t have been here 2,000 years ago.  (It may have "hitchhiked" to Israel with some pilgrims!)
• The Red-Back Spider is shiny-black with red-crescent shapes above its head.  At birth the spots are white; then they turn yellow, then orange and finally red.  The Red-Back Spider weaves a tightly-strung web, very close to the ground to catch walking or jumping, non-flying insects.

Red-Back Spider

Banded Argiope

Photo:  Pinchas Amitai

Photo:  Pinchas Amitai

Red-Back Spider

Banded Argiope

 

• The Banded Argiope is silver, with lots of stripes.  It has four sets of legs, with the third set the shortest.  It weaves a strong, very large web, up to a foot and a half in diameter.  The Banded Argiope likes to eat butterflies and is found everywhere, including the Judean Wilderness near Bethlehem.

David didn't kill spiders -- he struck Goliath with a sling and a stone.  The "traditional slingshot that killed Goliath" is a perfect gift for someone aiming to slay giants!
 

COMING TO JERUSALEM? 
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I have never seen a spider in Hezekiah's Tunnel in any of the 581 times I have splashed through.  Nevertheless if you are up for a biblical adventure, here's what you should bring:  FAQ on Hezekiah's Tunnel.
 
"Let's not get bitten by poisonous biblical snakes" describes and illustrates the four species of venomous snakes still slithering in Israel to the present day and cites their biblical references.
 

Black desert cobra mentioned in Isaiah 11

Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

The Black Desert Cobra is mentioned in Isaiah 11

 


GILA YUDKIN TCHERNIKOVSKI 64A JERUSALEM ISRAEL
gila@itsgila.com

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