which referenced this article:Eaten in the Middle East for centuries, za'atar has a fascinating history. The word refers both to the alluring spice mixture that you encountered, and to the wild oregano from which the mix derives (the latter za'atar, by the way, makes several ).
Just what's in your za'atar depends, in part, on where you are in the Mideast. But generally speaking, it involves some combination of ground dried oregano, thyme or marjoram, ground sumac, toasted sesame seeds and often, salt.
EzovAmong Palestinian Arabs, in any case, the word zaâatar refers to both the condiment and the wild oregano plant from which its local variety is made. Israelis call the condiment zaâatar, too, although in some of the commercially packaged Israeli preparations of it, it is advertised as âhyssopâ or âholy hyssop.â This is a word that, so the dictionaries tell us, comes from Latin hyssopus, which comes from Greek, which in turn comes from a word of Semitic origin that is either the same as, or closely akin to, Hebrew ezov.
Ezov is a word that occurs several times in the Bible. We first encounter it in the account of the paschal sacrifice in the book of Exodus, in which the children of Israel are told, in the language of the King James Bible: âAnd ye shall take a bunch of hyssop [ezov], and dip it in the blood [of the sacrifice]â¦ and strike the lintel [of your homes] and the two side postsâ¦.â Elsewhere in the Bible, the hyssop is mentioned as a plant used in rites of purification. There is no reference to its having been eaten, although the New Testament Gospel of John does tell us that Jesusâ followers gave him a âsponge of vinegarâ and âput upon it hyssopâ to ease his thirst when he was dying on the cross. (Hence the adjective âholyâ that Christianity attached to it.) They may really have done so, or else John was simply using the hyssop as a symbol of what is lowly and humble, as it is referred to by the Book of Kings when it relates that King Solomonâs wisdom encompassed everything great and small, âfrom the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that groweth out of the wall...
So where did the ezov in John come from?The book of John in the New Testament (written in Koine Greek) mentions that hyssop was used, along with vinegar, to alleviate the thirst of Jesus, during his Passion. Matthew and Mark mention the occasion but refer to the plant using the general term ÎºÎ±Î»Î±Î¼Î¿Ï (kalamos), which is translated as "reed" or "stick." Origanum has short stems and some scholars say it would have been too short to reach the mouth of Jesus during crucifixion. A number of scholars have proposed that ezov is the Caper plant (Capparis spinosa), which the Arabs call azaf.  The caper is native throughout the Mediterranean Basin, and considered to have cleansing properties.