Photo above: The oldest olive tree in the world is (claimed to be) the one in Vouves, near Chania, Crete…
EDITOR’S NOTE (Nick Stamatakis): As you will see in the article below, the olive tree was voted as the national tree of Israel, a noteworthy development. References in the Old Testament go back to Noah’s Ark: the dove that returns to Noah’s ark carries an olive branch in her mouth to symbolize the end of the flood and the return of life to earth. The references in Greek Mythology are equally powerful topped by Goddess Athena hitting the Acropolis rock with her spear and an olive tree came out – winning the contest and becoming the protector of the glorious city. Or should we go back to the Odyssey and talk about Odysseus’s bed, being in the trunk of an olive tree? And what to say about crowning the Olympic winners with an olive branch?
Before Greeks and Israelis start fighting, I can assure you as a social anthropologist by training specializing in the Mediterranean (among my many other “hats”…), that the olive tree and olive oil belong to all the people around the Mediterranean and signify as no other element the cultural unity of this “central” part of the Earth – the Sea that gave birth to so many religions and civilizations. It’s the common cultural denominator of ALL Mediterranean people from Lebanon to Morocco and from Barcelona to Marseilles to Tunis to Palermo to Ancona to Kalamata to Athens to Smyrna, to Tel Aviv… Nothing signifies peaceful coexistence, trade, and cultural similarities in the Mediterranean more than the olive tree, olives, and olive oil…
It would be a good idea for all the Mediterranean people to come together in a “trade association” symbolized by the olive tree. Especially now when olive trees are planted everywhere from California to Australia… But if a certain people have to claim the olive tree as a national symbol this would be us, the Greeks, as it has been more central to our culture and history than any of the others.
I would insist however in my proposal of Mediterranean unity around the olive tree. To entice you let me post here one of George Moustaki’s most famous songs: “En Mediteranee”… (Accompanied by George Dalaras, in French and Greek with English lyrics/subtitles)… George Moustaki himself could be an equally powerful symbol: Born of a Greek father and a Jewish mother in Alexandria, Egypt, and spent most of his life in France…
Olive voted as national tree to mark Tu Bishvat
With arbor ardor running high, tens of thousands of Israelis choose symbol of peace in KKL-JNF survey, helping it beat out Tabor, palm and lowly fig
By Sue Surkes
Gnarled and ubiquitous, a symbol of peace and longevity, the olive tree has been crowned Israel’s national tree.
Winning nearly 33 percent of some 148,000 votes cast online, the olive was declared a national symbol on Thursday, which marks Tu Bishvat, known as the Jewish arbor day.=
The contest was held by the tree-planting pioneers of the Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), which held the contest to celebrate 120 years of existence.
The olive tree now joins a national flower, the anemone; and bird, the hoopoe.
Aside from perhaps the hoopoe, which was declared by then-president Shimon Peres, these national symbols are informal and not necessarily officially recognized by the state. (A 2007 online poll by Ynet also “named” the olive the country’s national tree.)
Voters in the KKL-JNF poll were given seven trees to choose from. In second place was the Tabor oak (known for its big acorns), followed by the date palm, the terebinth (Palestine pistachio), and the eucalyptus, a non-native species brought to drain swamps and provide shade. The cypress and the fig rounded out the list.
Aside from providing olives and olive oil, ever-present in Middle Eastern cuisine, the olive tree is highly symbolic for the Jewish people.
An olive branch stands on either side of the seven-branched menorah in the state symbol. In the Bible, the dove that returns to Noah’s ark carries an olive branch in her mouth to symbolize the end of the flood and the return of life to earth. Today the branch is an international sign of peace.
Olive trees can live for thousands of years, according to tradition. The Franciscan Order that maintains the site of the New Testament’s Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives maintains that eight olive trees there date back to the time of Jesus, which would make them among the oldest in the world, though there is no scientific proof of their wizened age.
According to KKL-JNF, which has planted some 250 million trees since its establishment in the early 20th century, some 340,000 dunams (84,000 acres) of the country are planted with olive trees today, which produce more than 15,000 tons of oil and more than 24,000 tons of edible olives yearly.
KKL-JNF itself, which over the years has moved toward planting richer combinations of native trees, said it plants some 15,000 olive tree seedlings every year.
Αν δεν υπάρξει αμοιβαία αγάπη και αλληλοσεβασμός μεταξύ των Λαών , δεν θα
υπάρξει ειρηνική συνύπαρξη.