What Olives Mean to Palestinians
The fall is the time of the olive harvest in Palestine. It is something we eagerly anticipate every year, and it signifies that our collective effort to gather fruit can produce a beautiful and meaningful outcome in the olives and olive oil. Here are a few reasons that olives, olive oil and olive trees are important to the Palestinian people.
Olive oil is at the core of Palestinian cuisine. Palestinians use it for each of their main meals -- breakfast, lunch and dinner -- adding it to nearly every dish we prepare. If it were up to us, I think we would drink it like milk! We also eat olives as a side in all three meals. Olive oil is said to be the prime ingredient that makes Mediterranean cuisine one of the healthiest in the world.
2) Olive oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit.
In many of the traditional Palestinian churches, oil is used for anointing people.It is also used to light lamps in churches such as the Holy Sepulchre and the Nativity Church. In some cases, if a Palestinian Christian family experiences a miracle, they express their gratitude to God by dedicating a huge can of olive oil to a specific church.
3) The olive harvest means family time.
Most Palestinian land is planted with olive trees. During the harvest season, the Palestinian Authority dedicates a day long holiday for the purpose of picking olives. Many families that live in the city gather in their ancestral villages to pick the olives together. It’s a special time for both children and adults.
4) Olive trees symbolize resistance.
Due to the threat of Palestinian land confiscation by Israel, many Palestinians attempt to prevent this by planting olive trees. In some cases, Israel confiscates land on the basis that it’s abandoned, whereas when they see cultivated land, it is more difficult to confiscate it.
5) The olive branch is a symbol of peace.
From the time of Noah in the Old Testament, the olive branch has been a symbol of peace. Until this day, Palestinians use the olive branch to represent their hope to attain peace with Israel. One of the major events that took place in recent Palestinian history is when Arafat (Abu Ammar) Chairman of the PLO in 1973, held an olive branch at the UN and said: “I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand.” At that point the Palestinians were willing to extend a hand for peace, but unfortunately that willingness was not reciprocated by Israel.
When I see an olive tree or participate in the olive harvest, all these thoughts pass through my mind -- tasty food, the Holy Spirit’s anointing, family, resistance and peace. They sum up so much of what it means to be a Christian Palestinian living in Palestine. Olive oil reminds us of our faith in an all powerful and just God who sent His Holy Spirit to be with us. Olives remind us of the strong family bonds we have, and encourages us to embrace nonviolent resistance in hopes to bring peace to this land.