A dove carrying an olive branch is one of the historical symbols of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel. The dove is a symbol of peace, and the olive branch represents the close ties between the Jewish people and the Mediterranean olive tree. These two elements also symbolize the link between the young state and its ancient two-thousand -year-old history in which the olive tree and its oil played an important role.
Olive presses and olive oil constitute an entire culture in Israel. This culture began in ancient Biblical times when olive trees and oil were loved and revered. Israel is referred to in the book of Deuteronomy Chapter 8:7 as “A land of olives, oil, and honey.” Olive pits have been found dating back 6,000 years ago, and dozens of ancient olive presses bear witness to the many olive groves and the part that the industry played in the lives of people long ago. Olive oil was and still remains one of the most important agricultural products and was used for food, light, heat, medicinal treatments and cosmetics, as well as cleaning and hygiene.
Olive oil also played an important role in religious rituals, and was used for anointing priests and kings, for libations, and burials.
During Biblical times the entire season of the olive harvest signified a time of festivities. Today olive festivals mark this tradition and the olive harvest is celebrated in the fall with festivals and activities. Families make excursions to visit olive groves and to harvest olives together with the farmers, and to watch the olives being pressed. Restaurants serve special gourmet meals during the season featuring olives and olive oil. Musical events, nature walks, workshops, and other activities are held that center around the olive harvest and the production of olive oil.
Israel is a country where olive trees are considered sacred, and where olive oil is a symbol of abundance and health. Tourists who are in the country during the harvest season can also join in the many interesting and colorful events that accompany the olive harvest.