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The olive branch is the international symbol for peace. There is no where else in the world that could use that symbolism more than the areas of Israel/Palestine...and guess what? The olive tree grows everywhere there, ironic to say the least.
I was lucky enough to travel the middle east for almost two months. I've been back for a little over a month now and I'm still processing all the amazing things I was able to see, (I'm sure this will be the theme of my blog for months to come). The bulk of my trip was spent in my husbands small village in the beautiful (yes beautiful) West Bank visiting my in-laws. During the trip my husband asked if someone told me to write about my experience how many pages would it be. I said I could write a book. The book will come later, so until then I will tell you my three most favorite things I discovered during my time in Palestine.
1: My mother-in-laws cooking. My husbands college boy attempt (hi honey) at middle eastern cooking pales in comparison to hers. Her goal was to "fatten me up" and if you ask her she succeeded, telling me I looked like I gained weight right before we left was a compliment, lol.
2: Rock hunting. This crazy American was across the street in the valley every chance I could get picking through thousands of years of history in the form of rocks and crystals. Besides the broken pottery and pieces of tile that told a story of their own I was more drawn to the natural beauty of the stones and crystals that supersede war and conflict. Pieces that were there long before and will be there long after us felt very alive to me. They also felt very heavy, five bags later, in my suitcase :)
3: Finally there was the beautiful, amazing, abundant, resilient olive tree. I like olive oil, love delicious home pickled olives, but I really learned what a great giving tree it is. A fun pastime we had was visiting different pieces of land belonging to my husbands family. The crowning jewel of each piece was usually a handful of olive trees showing that the land was fertile. Every other year in the fall his family harvests the olives. Some get pickled. Some are sent to the local press and made into the most delicious cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. What I didn't know was that the trees give more. The pruned branches provide awesome carving wood for local artisans, the second or third pressing of oil are used (by his uncle) to make organic soap sold in a little corner store. The liquid byproduct can be given back to the soil as fertilizer. The crushed dried bits of olives and pits left over provide a fire kindling that gives off 2.5 times ithe energy and burns longer than wood giving a great renewable resource to the area (the first week we were there was chilly and I saw this in use firsthand). Asking very little, some tilled soil (the ones on the mountainside produce the best olives) and sunny weather and these trees can last for thousands of years, telling the stories of the land. The simplicity of these "giving trees" absorb into the people there in a way I hope continues. How funny the full circle of things...while they strive to modernize their lives to keep up with the world, here in America we are just beginning to remember the importance of the land...and how much it wants to give.
Image: Is a tree from my Mother-In-Law's Yard!