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Olive Harvest in Palestine


Palestinians living in the West Bank revere their ancient terraces, called “biblical terraces” because they’ve grown olives since biblical times. In October, it’s harvest time, and school’s out so everyone can gather the olives and keep the village olive press busy. Olives are the lifeblood of Palestinian culture.

Complete Video Script

Our first stop is Battir Natural Park — famed for its hikes through olive groves and ancient terraces.

Here in the Holy Land, the land itself is holy to its inhabitants. And for Palestinians, the olive tree is a kind of lifeblood for their culture.

Kamal: We are in Palestine. This is Palestine, Rick. These are the biblical terraces of Battir, and we call them “biblical” because they’re over 2,000 years of age. My ancestors came here and carved these terraces into the mountains. It was the only way for them to survive. You know, the mountains are hilly; you need the terraces to plant on them. They did that at that time, and guess what? We exist to today. We’re still here. Only though them. That’s why I love this place. This tells me, this is where I belong. Tells me this is Palestine.
Rick: What do olives mean to the Palestinian people?
Kamal: Olives, they’re the best trees. They’re the poor man’s tree. ’Cause the olive tree gives without taking. The olive tree gives us the olives without even needing us to do anything for it.

It’s October and across the land — as they have since ancient times — families gather in the olive groves for the harvest. Children are let out of school for the week so they can work the trees with their parents. In the West Bank, 60 percent of the trees are olive trees. To Palestinians the beloved olive tree represents their past and their future. As they say, “it was planted by our grandfathers for us to eat, and we plant it for our grandchildren to eat.”

In nearby villages, families take their olives to the communal press to make oil. The ancient technique survives — though boosted by hard-working machinery — as a busy crew in oil-soaked shirts meets the demands of the harvest season. Rounds of olive paste are pressed into a weeping mass. The fresh oil, after filtering, becomes a golden liquid poured into jugs to be taken home.