Israel and the Olive Tree

For thousands of years, Israel has been a fertile, natural environment for harvesting olives.

But, before the Jewish people’s return to the Holy Land, years of neglect and desertification decimated the country’s olive groves. Re-introducing the olive to Israel has been a long-term project and priority, and today many olive trees are found in Israel.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is taking this national priority one step further, seeking to grow an olive tree forest without irrigation and only through the collection of the desert’s natural rainfall.

Olives harvested from the new olive grove at Wadi Mashash will be made into extra virgin olive oil. As the health benefits of olive oil have become widely recognized, the olive oil industry has had to keep up with changes in areas ranging from crop cultivation to harvest and production. Techniques learned here could help inform a growing industry.

But beyond the practical applications, the olive tree has great significance to Israel and the Jewish people. The olive branch has been a traditional symbol of peace for thousands of years. The olive itself has special qualities that can be associated with peace and harmony.

  • Olives provide oil for lamps, so they provide light.
  • The cleansing power of olive oil brings purification.
  • The hardiness of the olive tree symbolizes fertility and vital energy.
  • Olive trees can live for 500 years, evoking longevity.

In addition, the olive branch is featured in the biblical story of Noah and the flood. Noah sends out a dove to find and bring back evidence of dry land. The dove returns with an olive leaf in its beak, as proof that the flood had subsided. The olive leaf is said to be God’s way of telling mankind that the struggle between them is over.

At Wadi Mashash, today’s flood waters will harvest a new olive tree forest, bringing life to the desert and promising fewer struggles for millions of people.

Click here to plant an olive tree to seed desert research.