Pomegranates Are a Sapphic Jewish Icon

I've never felt more like a Jewess who loves other women than when I'm gently carving open a pomegranate and coaxing out its seeds.

Last week, The Cut made a trend-forecast that caught my eye: Apparently, the pomegranate is back in style. Citing the reemergence of the fruit in the form of “what’s in my bag” memes, TikTok poetry and luxurious home decor, writer Danielle Cohen argues that the pomegranate’s current appeal is for the way it easily folds into “social-media-constructed femininity.”

“At the risk of going full O’Keeffe, there is something girly and vaguely vaginal about their fleshy cross-sections and blood-red seed clusters. A bow would look right at home tied neatly around the fruit’s glossy exterior,” she explains. Cohen is right, pomegranates are gorgeous and they are definitely having a moment online right now. But the reason her article particularly intrigued me is because, for me, pomegranates have never not been of the moment.

In fact, as a sapphic Jew, pomegranates are kind of my icon.

The connection between Judaism and pomegranates is an easy one to make. As Cohen references in her article, the idea that pomegranates have 613 seeds is often associated with the 613 mitzvot. As such, pomegranates are frequently used as ornaments to decorate Torah scrolls and make their way onto Judaica like dreidels, menorahs and mezuzot. Moreover, pomegranates are mentioned in multiple ancient Jewish texts. The Torah lists the pomegranate as one of ancient Israel’s seven species, as well as including the fruit in a few other parashot. Pomegranates are even featured in a story from the Talmud and the Song of Songs.

Ultimately, in the estimation of designer Susan Alexandra — whom I consider to be a modern day prophetess of everything beautiful and Jewish — pomegranates are simply the most Jewish fruit.

To me, they’re also the most sapphic. Not including sex, I’ve never felt more like a woman who loves other women than when I’m gently carving open a pomegranate and coaxing out its seeds. Sure, the fact that the interior of a pomegranate evokes yonic imagery and its juice menstrual blood is part of it. But not all lesbians have vaginas or periods. For me, the pomegranate’s truer sapphic nature is the sensuousness of it all. The feeling of pomegranate juice rolling down your chin and arms, staining your fingers magenta; the soft crunch of seeds meeting teeth and the pomegranates’ flesh giving way when pulled apart; the sweetness of the fruit which makes you purse your lips ever so slightly.

Of course, this kind of deep erotic sensuality can also exist between men and women. In the Song of Songs, the author (purportedly King Solomon) writes, “Your lips are like a crimson thread; your mouth is lovely. Your brow behind your veil [gleams] like a pomegranate split open.” But to me, this is the exception that makes the rule. My experience of love and sex with men has always felt like two waves crashing together. Which, to be clear, isn’t a bad thing. But my experience of love and sex with women and other queer people is ineffably softer, lusher and juicier. Like a pomegranate waiting to be plucked.

More broadly, fruit symbology just belongs to queer folk. Tracing its origins back to at least the 19th century, “fruit” or “fruity” have long been pejorative ways to describe gay people and particularly gay men. Now, in a moment where LGTBQ+ folks are reclaiming slurs for themselves, it just feels right to embrace the sapphic fruitiness of the pomegranate. Plus, show me a Jewish lesbian who doesn’t have or isn’t planning to get a pomegranate tattoo. I’ll wait.

So I say let the people of the internet hype up the pomegranate! Because no matter how long the trend lasts, pomegranates will always be a symbol for sapphic Jewesses and Jewex everywhere.

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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