November is the month of olive harvest in the Middle East.
While travelling through the holy land, one can find fields upon fields of olive trees. As one of the most prominent evergreens in the Mediterranean, it can be seen on the hillsides, in the valleys, between houses, even on backyards and front yards.
Olives are sacred trees among the Arabs, a symbol of life and resistance, for even hollow, old and gnarled, they can still bear fruit. They are also blessed trees, being mentioned in a number of holy books, as symbols of peace and healing.
Scientifically, olive trees are known worldwide to possess healing properties, as it contains strong anti oxidant and are rich in vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E and vitamin K. It also helps to maintain a healthy digestive track, both for children and adults alike.
Palestinians consider the cutting or burning of an olive tree sacrilegious, and the decimation of one is met with tears and grief.
Throughout October and mid November 65% of the Palestinian population gather in the fields to harvest the olives, the manual labored enjoyed by many.
Schools either let up early or give a few days off so that children and adolescents can participate in the harvest, a way to encourage each generation to continue the long ago celebrated tradition.
During this harvesting time, up to four generations of the same family can be found picking olives, using the same method from centuries ago: Gently beating the branches with a stick so that the olives will fall atop a nylon covered ground. Usually the adults or older teens beat or climb the trees while the younger children and elders pick the downed fruit and separate it from fallen leaves and twigs.
Olive trees play a huge part in the Palestinian agriculture, responsible for the income of more than fifty seven percent of the population according to the Palestinian central bureau of Statistics (2011).
They also play a major role in four aspects of the Palestinian Life:
- It’s an important component of the Palestinian palate – being the ‘butter’ of many families, rich and poor alike;
- It’s used in many healing potions and home-made cosmetics,
- It’s an important source of fuel
- It’s one of the most important exports in Palestine, both as in the production of soap and olive oil
Palestine might not be one of the major producers of olive oil worldwide, but it has some of the oldest olive groves in the world, some of the trees dating as far back as the birth of Christ.