My friend Yael D. Bernhard has been planning a children's book about olives for years. This year she finally made it to Kibbutz Gezer in time for the harvest. In spite of the distant sounds of rockets falling, she and her daughter Sage worked alongside the rest of the olive pickers, and after work came back out to the olives to draw and paint.
See what she wrote about her experience on her blog:
At Badra, From left: Barak, Elan, Benny, Tom G., Tom H., Ruth.
Barak and Maya, my neighbors, wanted to help in their own way with the olive harvest. They recently opened a hummus restaurant in Rehovot called Badra, and invited the olive pickers to come eat. So we got all spiffied up and headed for the big city! The place is called Badra, at 173 Herzl St. The food and atmosphere are something special. We ate hummus, Ful, musabachah, homemade chips, falafel, and beer too! Thanks Maya and Barak- you guys are something special!
Many people have worked picking olives on Kibbutz Gezer, dating back to the early days with Pat and Ruth in the 1980's through to today, when Ilan and Yonatan Braude, Ruth and Jan, Jesse and 2 of her kids, Tom Haskell, and myself were all working. So if you've ever picked olives, I'd like to know about it and let others know too. So send a note through my email or the contact page on this website with your name, the dates you picked olives, any photos you have of the olives or of yourself, and any other interesting info. I'll enter it into the olive picker bios
We are in the midst of our largest harvest ever. It's been exhausting, interesting, challenging, hilarious, emotional, you name it. Like always, well thought out plans get scrapped and changed.So many great people come to help and move on, some for only an hour or 2 (like the couple who were out for a walk and got convinced to stay and work for a couple hours, and Jill and Bob who wanted to see what olive picking looks like and came back as experienced pickers for another round). Others come and stay for weeks. The best part of this work is getting to know so many people through working together, and catching up with those I've known for years and even decades.
Our largest harvest til this year was 10 1/2 tons. We have already picked over 7 tons, and we are maybe halfway finished. What began on October 30th with just me and Lia picking the olives from the few early ripening manzanilo olive trees has become today a group of 10 , buzzing along and raking clusters of pink and purple and green and blue/black olives off the trees and onto the sheets covering the ground, loading the boxes, and getting them into the truck and off to the press. We picked over a ton today alone!
I'm half asleep so I will have to pick up again soon. Lots of stories to tell, and people to thank. Another time...
When the Jewish New Year approaches, all across the Israeli (and Mediterranean) countryside the Hatzav, or Sea Squill, begins to bloom. They seem to appear out of nowhere, growing in earth that has been barren and dry for months. The tiny flowers first open at the lower part, and each day make their way up the stalk. Only after flowering does the greenery then appear down along the ground. Quite something. I took this photo in Jerusalem at UN hill ( the Hill of Evil Council).
Those little baby olives from May are all grown up. The Nabali olives (on the left) are big and round. The Shimlali olives, which are the first to ripen, are already beginning to turn color. Looks to be a very good yield, and we're already making preparations for the harvest. We'll need to keep things running smoothly to get all the olives picked on time.
I went to an olive workshop in Nazareth last week together with Benny, my trusty partner in olive growing. It was sponsored by NICCOD, the Japanese government organization for community development. They have been working for the past few years in the West Bank town of Tubas to improve the quality of the olive oil and help market the oil overseas. The workshop was attended by Palestinian and Israeli olive growers (actually Benny and I were the only Israeli growers there), together with Japanese sponsors and advisers, and experts from Israel, Palestine, Japan and Greece. We heard about olive pests, different varieties and farming methods, and the effect of harvest timing.
Most people come out to the olives in the fall and winter. And every year someone asks me if the figs or pomegranates are ripe now. So here are a few photos I took today of the ripe figs and just now ripening pomegranates. Those beautiful flowers are eucalyptus blossoms, buzzing with bees.
It's been a long time. Not that I don't have anything to say, but you know how it goes. Above is a shot of the newly developing olives. This year's harvest looks to be quite promising. Lots to do this time of year: getting drip irrigation system back into working order, cutting down weeds, getting the olive fly traps glued up and hanging on the trees, and the usual olive oil bottling and deliveries.
I am in the middle of a permaculture design course which meets every Friday. Permaculture is a way of designing that copies from, and strives to be in harmony with, nature. So that includes farming and gardening methods, building design, and lifestyle. I've learned a lot about permaculture along the way, especially from my good friend Jan Bang who is a real expert. But the course is helping fill in the gaps, reorganize my thinking, and giving me lots of new ideas to try. The teacher and fellow students are great people. It takes place at the Chava V'Adam Ecological Education Center in Modiin. A highly recommended place to visit and experience. Check it out.
Last week I made a long overdue trip to the Garden of Gethsemane, in the Kidron Valley between the Mount of Olives and the Old City of Jerusalem. This is the garden where Jesus and his disciples hung out, and where Jesus was arrested after the Passover seder. Guess who didn't find the afikoman!
Why am I telling you all this here? First, because the Garden of Gethsemane has about a dozen seriously old olive trees. The million dollar question is: "how old? Did Jesus really rest under these same trees?" I know, that's two questions. From what I've learned, there aren't any 2000 year old olive trees still alive. Or even 1,980 year old ones in this case. But still they are quite a beautiful site.
Secondly, the name Gethsemane in Hebrew is "Gat Shmanim", or oil press. Apparently there was an olive press, possibly in Mary's grotto next door. Notice the big round stones for crushing olives in the background in the painting that hangs on the wall there (just below Jesus' right hand):
On a final note, it's never too early to remind readers that if anyone is interested in picking olives this fall/winter, get in touch by email through this website. I'm always looking for a few good people to come stay with us at Gezer and help out.
We had heard stories last year from Wiltrud about the amazing olive tree with huge olives that she found. And the story got bigger with the telling. But this year, at an undisclosed location, we found the legendary tree with the 4 cm. olives. These are untouched photos, attesting to the size of these beauties. It took four us us just to pick one up. OK, not that big, but still... We'll be packing these babies in rock salt and eating them on the first day of picking next year.
Meanwhile the picking is going great, with a week to go. Then we'll be pruning, cutting up brush, andspreading compost.
We are into the home stretch now, with just a couple weeks to go until we finish picking for the year. Of course picking is just the end product of tons of other work and pleasures, the next of which is pruning. Olive trees need pruning, sometimes quite severely to keep them healthy. But more on that some other time.
This year's picking crew has been great. First Omer and Valentina showed up at the end of October, then Friedrich in early November, and finally Ruth and Jan made their yearly return to gezer and the olives about 10 days ago. It's quite an international group-each of us was born in a different country: Norway, England, Germany, Israel, Italy and the US. And of course kibbutz folk show up sometimes too, especially Melissa as well as Varda, Roxanne, and a few other people.
The weather has been great, with about 5 days of rain which kept us away from picking but has refreshed everything and turned the brown bare earth into a green crewcut. It has been nice and cool, which makes the work a lot easier.
I'm not going to brag about this year's oil, but we are already enjoying it with our daily outdoor breakfast in the orchard. There are some photos of this year's harvest in the photos section. Enjoy. As always, love to read your comments. D
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I'm Dani Livney, a member of Kibbutz Gezer, and the manager of the Gezer olives. I love it! I also work as a lawyer, focusing on environmental projects and promoting environmental empowerment and education.