Olives have always played an integral role I the culture of the Holy Land. Deuteronomy 8:8 includes olive oil as part of the seven species; seven agricultural products that have a special connection to the land of Israel.
During the time of Roman rule, the Holy Land was the eastern most part of the empire where these desirable fruits grew. And, today, every child in nursery school learns to sing a simple song that goes, “Olive trees are standing. Olive trees are standing. La la la la la la la Olive trees are standing. With their gnarled trunks and distinctive leaves, olive trees have been a signature of the Holy Land for thousands of years.
Usually, October and November are the traditional olive-picking months. Picking olives has always been a fun activity for the whole family. In fact, writings from the time of Jesus describe the joy of the fall harvest activities! And, 2,000 years later, the joy and the method are just the same. You spread out a sheet under the olive tree, peat the branches with a stick to pry the olives from the branches and, voila, you have picked olives. And, if you don’t have a sheet with you, don’t worry. Just pick up the olives that have fallen on the ground and scoop them into whatever bag you have with you.
So, where can you pick olives in Israel?
Here a few suggestions divided up by region:
Between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
1. Tel Hadid in the Ben Shemen Forest. Make sure you walk to the top of the tel (hill) for breathtaking views of Tel Aviv to the northwest. There are lots of picnic tables, bicycle routes and walking paths so you can make a whole day out of your visit there.
2. Ayalon-Canada Park
Located just off of Route 1, the main Tel-Aviv Jerusalem highway, Park Canada has wonderful picnic grounds, archaeological finds, walking trails and, of course, olive trees.
3. Convent of the Sisters of Bethlehem – Beit Jamal Monastery
You can visit bot the Convent of the Sisters of Bethlehem which was established by Trappist nuns, and the Beit Jamal Monastery which was built by Salesian monks in 1881. While you are there, you can watch a video on the life of this silent order of nuns, and you can see their prayer room when you climb to the top of the building. In the small adjacent shop, ceramics and pottery made by the nuns are on sale, as well as convent- and monastery-produced olive oil. The dirt road leading up to the convent is lined with beautiful olive trees.
From the Galilee to the Golan Heights
4. Capernaum Vista Olive Farms
A trip to the Holy Land is greatly enhanced when you experience the nature of the land as Jesus did two thousand years ago. Why not combine a trip to Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes with a visit to the Capernaum Vista Olive Farms? Located in the tranquil Golan Heights village of Katzrin (Qatzrin), the center offers you a chance to learn how olives were pressed in ancient Israel. You’ll learn how olives were harvested and watch as this bitter fruit is transformed into one of the world’s most fragrant and aromatic oils. You can enjoy a light meal at the center’s café and purchase gifts in the well-stocked gift shop. You can also visit the farm’s various orchards which can be found along the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
5. Jimmy Jeep- jeep tours in southern Golan- Jimmy Shaal of Givat Yoav
You will experience the olive picking from up close. A jeep tour will bring you into the olive orchards in the southern Golan for watching the olive picking. You can also pick the olives yourself in Mitzpeh Ofir (The Ofir Lookout at Givat Yoav). You’ll also have the opportunity to see very old olive trees and learn how the olives survived and how they live today. You must call in advance: 052-2543323, 052-4204222
6. Kidmat (Qidmat) Tzvi
Located in the central Golan Heights, this bucolic village, located 5 minutes northeast of Qatzrin, offers you a chance to see how 21st century Israelis enjoy the beauty of ancient Israel. Treat yourself to some wine at the nearby Golan Winery and then enjoy the crisp mountain air as you harvest olives while looking out over the majestic Golan Heights.
7. Hananya Farms
The Western Galilee is one of the most beautiful areas of the country. Rolling hills and fresh mountain air make this a wonderful location for spending a day enjoying a nature walk, a picnic lunch and, of course, olive picking. Located near various Druze, Jewish and Christian villages, a visit to the Western Galilee also offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the various cultures of people living in Israel today.