Palestinian olive harvest: A season of joy and symbol of resistance
Olive has long been an important part of the Mediterranean diet, and it has been steadily gaining popularity across the globe – all thanks to the many health benefits it offers!
Olives and olive oil are a must on every Palestinian family's dining table, no matter rich or poor. The harvest season of olives is one of the most-awaited and flavorsome seasons of Palestine, and families, students, tourist groups alike love to experience the art of olive picking. The season is considered auspicious in the region as olive trees represent symbols of peace and hope.
Every year in October, thousands of Palestinians engage in a process of olive harvest to produce olive oil. This is a collaborative effort with the help of the neighbours, friends, and family members. They do their best to pick the product after a year-long process of caring for the land and trees, which are considered of both nationalistic and economic value.
This season continues until the end of the month and every year the ministry of agriculture in Palestine determines the harvesting date. Even the permits for olives press machines for farmers to start their work in pressing the olives are looked by the ministry.
There are more than 2000 types of olives of two primary colours: black and white. The bitter delicacy contains a kernel that is similar to peaches, cherries, and others. Additionally, the olive seeds contain a lot of oil, unlike its outer surface.
The olive season signifies the close relationship that links the Palestinians to their lands, all while expressing their national identity. When one visits Palestine, it is a common vision of finding at least one olive tree in each house.
Palestinians even use olive woods as it is ideal for manufacturing wooden products, handicrafts, etc. The skill-set of manual labor such as drilling and manufacturing of handicrafts from the trees is a well-honed art which the worker begins to train from their childhood.
Olive wood carving is an ancient tradition in Palestine that continues to the present day. It involves the skillful chiseling of olive wood. The history of this craft dates back to the period of the entry of Christian missionaries to the city of Bethlehem. The craft began with the manufacture of rosaries using olive seeds and then making wooden utensils and cups as well. Each region is also specialized in producing specific things, for example, Beit Jala makes horses and camels, and Beit Sahour makes religious statues.
However, olives are best known for the oils they produce. The pressing process follows several procedures. First, the machine washes the olives through warm water to make it fresh and purify from any dirt, then they prepare it for the other production stages. Second, grounding the olives in different ways, this process aims to press on the olives to get oil. Third, they are continuously mixed by a big machine to avoid a high temperature that can affect the oil quality. Fourth and finally, oil filtration to get a high-quality oil without any dirtiness with a green color.
Olive oil is used in many dishes, such as hummus, breads, salads and more. It is also used in producing several types of medicines and cosmetics. However, Palestinians have now been facing a lot of troubles because of the Israeli siege; people of Palestine also suffer from the continuous cutting of electricity. There’re alternative resources such as olive woods, which can be used in cooking, warming, lighting, producing crafts and dishes.
The olive trees are spread all over the Mediterranean, especially in Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, Italy, France, and Spain for almost 8000 years ago. For a long time, Palestinians have protected their lands from the Israeli army but now they’re occupying the lands and destroying thousands of olives trees, which is why the quantity of production is becoming more limited every year.
The intricate and symbiotic relationship between a Palestinian and an olive is ingrained in the culture and history. Palestinian women, men, youth, and children while harvesting the olives, sing traditional songs, one of which by the poet Mahmoud Darwish gives clarity of the tradition:
"If the olives remember who planted it
The oil will become tears!
A laa dalonaa alaa dalonaa ( it is a tone in Palestine cultural)
These olives are the most beautiful seeds in my country."
(The author is an international intern for EastMojo, from Gaza, Palestine. She is currently pursuing master's in Mass Communication and Journalism from Tezpur University. She is on the mission to sensitize the people of NorthEast of the situation and the grim reality of the happenings in Palestine.)