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Olive Harvest Season
Olive trees are considered a very significant part of the Palestinian tradition, as they have always been both an essential element of Palestinian livelihood and a symbolic sign of harmony and welfare.
For the Palestinian farmers, the months of October and November mark the olive harvest season, which is the time of family gatherings and joyful festivals.
It is preferable to pick up the olives manually, which means a lot of hard work taking also a lot of time. To ease the labour, farmers sing various lively folk songs and listen to the stories of the elders.
Every Palestinian is a part of an ancient line of farmers. Even if many of them have professional jobs, their lives in the fall season focuses on ripe olives. Most of the modern families have couple of olive trees in their gardens, so every year they can enjoy their own freshly pressed olive oil, which is an indispensable element of the Palestinian cuisine.
After Picking Comes Time for Pickling
The pickling is also a time-consuming process. First a person needs to sort through the olives for the green, bigger and unblemished ones and later make two or three snicks in every single olive.
Next, the olives need to be soaked in water overnight, which washes them and removes the bitter liquids. The next day, the water needs to be replaced and salt, lemon juice and lemon slices should be added. This mixture is ready to be put in jars. However, a person needs to wait couple of months for the olives to be ready to be eaten.
Olive Harvest Festivals
7th Jaru’a Festival
The Jaru’a Festval of Canaan Fair Trade is traditional feast solemnized at the end of the harvest, during which everyone can be grateful for another year of plentiful crops. Farmers, women producers, fair trade distributors, and international visitors gather together to celebrate the fruit of the season. This year, the festival is going to last three days from 2nd till 4th of November 2012. For more information about Canaan’s Jaru’a check here.
12th Bethlehem Olive Harvest Festival
Celebrate the olive harvest in the birth town of Jesus Christ! Bethlehem Olive Harvest Festival is held annually in the heart of the town, just next to the Basilica of the Nativity. The Festival is famous for its open-air market which features plenty of olives, olive oil, olive trees, olive wood, olive oil soap, traditional food, embroidery, and Palestinian folkloric shows. This year, 2012 the event will take place on the 3rd of November from 10 am till 7 pm.
Olive Oil Press Museum in Bethlehem
During your visit in Bethlehem, at any time of the year, check Al-Bad Museum, which features an old traditional olive press. There you can learn about the process of olive oil making and its use. The museum is situated in the heart of Bethlehem’s Old Town, just next to the vegetable market. It is open every day except Fridays and Sundays from 10 am till 3 pm. No entrance fee.
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Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah-Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.
The Olive Harvest Festival celebrated annualy in November by the farmers of the Canaan Fair Trade cooperative was a perfect opportunity to take an excursion to the region of Jenin.
Our itinerary for that day included the cities of Zababdeh, Jenin and Burqin, all of which are situated in the northern portion of the Palestinian Territories, which can be associated with the northern region of the Biblical Samaria. On our way, we passed several Palestinian villages and cities of great historical importance, including Beit Sahour, Ramallah and Nablus.
Zababdeh is a predominantly Christian rural village located around 10 km south of Jenin. Its name is probably derived from the Arabic word ‘zibdeh’ which means butter.
We took a short walk through the village reaching the Latin church of Visitation, which, according to tradition, was built in 1883 on the site where Mary and Elizabeth met. We also saw a grotto located under the church which could have been a resting spot for the Holy Family on their way from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Some believe that during the time of Christ, Zababdeh was situated on the travel and trade route of that time period, and was probably visited by Jesus himself.
Because of the amount of people gathered for a funeral, we could not visit the church right away. Interestingly, in Bethlehem, mourning families usually serve dark strong coffee without sugar and sweet buns, but in Zababdeh mourners give a plate/ cup of ‘slika’. The person, whom I asked about the name of those sweetened grains, gave me his cup away, so our group could taste it.
In 1884, during the construction of the Latin Convent of the Rosary sisters, located just next to the Visitation Church, ancient Byzantine mosaics were uncovered.
To visit the Latin Parish call (04) 251 05 25 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our next stop was Jenin, a town located on the edge of a level plain known to the locals as Marj Ibn Amer and mentioned in the Bible as Jezreel Valley or the Plain of Esdraelon. Jenin’s fertile surroundings was a perfect place to settle as early as in the times of Canaanites, who called it En Gannim. According to the local tradition, Jenin or Ginaea - as it was called in the times of Christ – was located on the main road between Nazareth and Jerusalem, and thus Jesus probably passed by the village on a number of occasions.
However, our group focused on the city’s Ottoman legacy visible in the impressive governmental buildings around the town. The traditional vegetable market ‘souq’, was unfortunately closed as it was a Friday but we found an opened bakery and enjoyed delicious traditional flat bread ‘taboun’ (which tasted differently than the one I sometimes buy in Bethlehem!). I decided to buy a couple of pieces which the participants of our tour could share together. The owner of the bakery was very hospitable and let us take pictures of the bread making process.
Since Friday is a Moslem holy day, unfortunately, we could not visit the Great Mosque of Jenin; Friday noon is the time for a weekly mosque service and is inappropriate for sightseeing.
The Palestinian town of Burqin, located 4 km west of Jenin, is famous as the location of the Church of Ten Lepers, also known as the Greek Orthodox church of St. George. Among our group we have easily agreed that this very well maintained church was one of the most impressive sites seen during this trip.
Burqin Church dates to the Byzantine times and is considered to be the fifth-oldest Christian holy place and the third-oldest church in the world. The first church was built over a cave which looks like a Roman cistern, where Jesus is said to cure ten lepers, from whom only one came back to thank him.
During the Crusader periord, after the 13th century, the church was rebuilt what can be clearly noticed by looking at the medieval ceiling of the monastery. There also can be seen a very impressive stone iconostasis and ancient stone chair for a priest.
Recent excavations inside the church revealed a burial place for two monks. The belongings found in the tombs are currently exposed – among them parts of a Bible written in Arabic dating at least 400 years.
Canaan Fair Trade Olive Harvest Festival
We arrived the Canaan Fair Trade facility around 2 pm and we were very hungry. Fortunately, the delicious traditional Palestinian dish ‘musahan’ and tea made on bonfire were already waiting for us. Musahan was made of freshly baked taboon bread and piece of chicken spiced with a great amount of a sour ‘summac’, onion and fried almonds.
After some time of rest, we were ready to explore the facility and learn about the process of olive oil pressing and storing it afterwards. We were also able to try all the products of the Caanan – besides the freshly pressed raw olive oil, there were delicious tomato and olive spreads, hand made couscous and various spices like zaatar or summac.
On our return trip back to Bethlehem we enjoyed the many products that we had taken with us from Canaan and began discussing our next off the track adventure.
Would you like to experience a similar day? Do you need help in planning your trip? Contact Travelujah on email@example.com in case of any questions.
Beata Andonia blogs regularly for Travelujah. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.
Bethlehem is my new home since September 2010. This charming town in the Holy Land is definitely worth a visit! Discover Bethlehem with my blog :-) Other places are coming soon...