VII: Fig

The fig leaf of Christianity's weird attitude about Israel.

VII: Fig
Photo by Auguste A / Unsplash

Good morning. Today is septidi, the 7th of Brumaire, Year CCXXXI. We celebrate la figue, part of this complete fruited cake.

The fig is a weird fruit. What we know as the "fig" isn't the fruit at all, but a sort of tree-based womb with a hollow interior where multiple flowers grow. Once the flowers grow, the fig opens a little hole called an ostiole into which a specialized female wasp crawls, losing her wings in the process. The pollen-laden wasp fertilizes the flowers and also lays her own eggs. Soon, baby wasps crawl out. The boys are born wingless and mate with mature females, while the ladies fly free. Once all the wasps are gone, the fig flowers mature into the "fruit" seeds inside and the fig ripens to its juicy state, a sort of inside-out strawberry that grew because it was a wasp nursery. I hope this didn't ruin figs for you.

Fig trees are endemic to the Mediterranean and there's archaeological evidence that they were one of the first trees cultivated for food. This means figs feature heavily in the Bible. Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves once they realized that being naked is super awkward. The nation of Israel is compared to a fig tree at numerous points. Jesus curses a fig tree in one of the rare instances of the dude hurling insults instead of love.

Figs represent the Jewish nation, and the Christian view of figs is every bit as convoluted, paradoxical, and contradictory as the historical Christian attitude about Jews. With anti-Semitism having a paroxysm once again, it's worth unpacking the fig.