Oct 24, 2023  By David Pollack  Category: Blueprint Negev,

Harvesting Olives With Purpose

Today I traveled to the ancient Jewish city of Ein Karem, which dates back to the time of the Second Temple. We were part of a group of volunteers who came to help Noam, the farmer/caretaker of an olive grove which is located off a very dusty unpaved dirt road that seemingly leads nowhere. After hiking for four or five minutes, we came upon a beautiful grove of several dozen olive trees situated in a lovely valley.

Noam gave us a quick (very quick) tutorial on how to harvest the olives or as he put it “milk the trees." He gave us our “equipment" which consisted of a large plastic tarp and several broom handles and advised us that after picking the low hanging fruit from the ground, the most effective way to milk the tree is to thrash the branches with the broomsticks which causes the olives to fall and collect on the tarp. After enough olives are collected on one side of the tree, they are gathered from the tarp and placed in a sack. The tarp is then moved to the other side of the tree and the process begins anew. 

After that process was completed, we were told to climb the tree (no easy feat) and thrash the upper branches from our elevated perch. It was hot and dusty, and we quickly became very thirsty and tired. But, of course, these small discomforts seemed even more inconsequential given the real sacrifices being made daily by hundreds of thousands of soldiers and millions of civilians around the country to protect their homeland. After a few hours thrashing, picking and separating the twigs and leaves from the olives, we had collected nearly 10 kilos -- over 20 pounds of olives -- which will be pressed into oil.

We heard the other day when we visited an army base, that the IDF is purchasing thousands of menorahs which the soldiers believed meant that the war is likely to continue into December during the Chanukah holiday. As sad as this information is, we were heartened by the thought that perhaps some of the oil from the olives we harvested today may serve to light the menorahs of some of the brave soldiers battling for the safety and security of our beloved homeland. It is the least we can do.  


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Thank you to David Pollack, a civilian volunteer from New York, for sharing his experiences in Israel this past week.