The art of decorating and adorning ketubot in Jerusalem itself was the birthright of the Sefaradi community, who brought this artistic tradition to Eretz Yisrael from the cities of the Ottoman Empire and Islamic lands.
The earliest surviving examples of these are from the end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th. During this era a set form of visual symbols referring to the most holy place in the city- the Temple Mount and the structures contained on it-were established.
One of the most widespread symbols of Jerusalem in the Sefaradi ketubot was the cypress tree. The “cypress trees” are, in general, drawn at the top of the page. In the ketubah above you can see this type of tree prominently displayed against the background of greenery.
Cypress trees characterize the folk tradition of depictions of Holy Sites in Eretz Yisrael. On traditional artifacts and in various folk are that were created in Jerusalem they appear as part of the conventional view of the Temple Mount, which showed the Dome of the Rock (as the Temple), the Al-Aqsa Mosque (as “Midrash Shlomo”), and between them the Western Wall. Rising above this whole scene are cypress trees (see, Jerusalem ketubah, 1896).
According to scholars, these trees symbolize the Temple and Jerusalem for a number of reasons. One of the theories is that they appear due to the fact that cypress trees grow on the Temple Mount. According to others, the Jews were not able to discern which trees grew on the Temple Mount, since they could not clearly see it from the narrow plaza in front of the Western Wall. And so, they mistakenly identified the cypress trees with the cedars that made up the building material of the Temple (Kings I 5: 20). (See also, “House of Cedars” [II Samuel 7:7]). Therefore the cypress trees in this ketubah, just as in other Sefaradi ketubot from Jerusalem, represent the Temple.