THE ANNUAL OLIVE BRANCH FESTIVAL OPENS IN THE GALILEE AND GOLAN , LAST WEEKEND IN OCTOBER AND FIRST WEEKEND IN NOVEMBER
In celebration of the annual olive harvest, the Olive Branch Festival features two weekends of activities for visitors to the Galilee and Golan, including visits to olive presses and the homes of Galilee residents, workshops, hikes, cycling tours, gourmet meals and alternative health treatments (last weekend in October and first weekend in November).
The festival, a joint initiative of the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, the Galilee Development Authority and the Olive Council, aims to increase awareness of the health benefits of the olive and olive oil and is held under the slogan “A Tribute to the Olive in Different Cultures” .
The Open House initiative offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Galilee residents from all walks of life, Jews, Arabs, Druze and Circassian, as well as the opportunity to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of the area.
Hananya Farm in the Western Galilee is both the headquarters of the Olive Council and one of the four information centers of the festival, offering a wide range of workshops and activities for adults and children. These include picking and pressing the olives, guided olive oil tasting, explanations on the olive harvest, an arts and crafts fair, farmers market and musical performances beneath the olive trees.
Guided hikes (many with KKL-JNF guides), cycle and jeep tours are available. Many hikes also include visits to the open houses of the local residents, olive oil tastings and explanations on the olive oil industry and local culture.
One of the Biblical seven species, the olive branch is a symbol of peace (derived from the story of Noah), and is woven into the emblem of the State of Israel. Israel has several sites that refer to the fruit, such as Jerusalem’s Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane (a Greek adaptation of the Hebrew Gat Shemanim or oil vat). Olive oil was used for religious rituals in the Temple, for medicinal and cosmetic purposes, for light and, of course, in cooking. Evidence has been found in Israel linking the origins of olive oil production to the Neolithic period, some 7000 years ago and export of olive oil as far back as 3000 BCE. Israel’s landscape is dotted with the remains of hundreds of ancient oil presses, the majority of which date from the ninth century BCE onwards.