Olive trees have always held a special place in my heart and my memories. The olive tree itself is an essential part of the Palestinian life. To this day my mom sends me olive oil that is pressed from olives, which are handpicked from the ancient olive trees that grow on our land. These trees, some hundreds of years old, were planted by my ancestors: my great grandparents, my grandparents, my parents, and now, even by cousins. We planted thirty olive saplings in 2000 that today produce some magnificent olives. I wish to share with you my memories of the olive harvests that I experienced as a young woman in Palestine.
I always anticipated the annual olive harvest with great joy. The families and people are working to gather their precious olives. Family members, to this day, make an effort to travel to one another from all over the country to help in the olive harvest. Olives are picked by hand as they have been for thousands of years. Recently watching the film “Pomegranates and Myrrh” took me back to days in which I joined my family as we would set out early in the day with a picnic of olives, tomatoes, cheese, thyme, onions, freshly baked bread, and thermos of sage tea. We took the food that had been prepared the night before, carrying large blankets, heavy ladders, and bags.
Once there, the blankets were spread under the tree and the ladders leant against it. My mother and sister picked those olives that could be reached by hand and used sticks to knock down the olives that were too high to reach. As for me, I loved to climb. I would bounce from one branch to another, giving my mother a heart attack in the process. I played around a lot more than I picked olives in those days. I loved being outdoors with my family. I would get to the top of these beautiful and ancient trees and proceed to throw olives at my sister and brother below me and my mother likely spent more time yelling at me, than anything else. Anyhow, after all the olives were gathered, they were placed in large bags and carried back home to be spread on the roof of our house for a few days. Not all olives were sent to the presses; my mom made some cracked olives that are so famous in Palestine. We used medium sized stones like hammers to crack the olives one by one. Other olives were left to dry in the sun, and then stored with salt and oil.
The olive trees and the land they grow on still have a special place in my heart. They offer me a sense of connection to my history and that of my people. A sense reinforced each time I remember or climb a tree that was planted several hundred years before by my ancestors. To think that I was picking and eating from the same trees that my family had picked and eaten olives from for generations before me, still inspires awe in me. It is something that I will pass on to my children and hope that they will get the chance to do likewise.