"Who likes olives?" Ben Heineman asked his
children as they jumped out of the car at Ben Shemen Forest, where
KKL-JNF had organized activities on the theme of "the olive tree"
during the recent Sukkot holiday. "Who doesn't?" the children responded
enthusiastically, running to join the hundreds of parents and children
participating in the many and varied activities related to olives and
olive trees. Ben Shemen Forest is close to both Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv,
and to major national highways, and in fact, is named for its fame as
an olive-producing region in the past -in Hebrew shemen means oil. The
Ben-Shemen Forest recreation areas, picnic sites and trails suitable
for the physically challenged, were all built and developed with help
of KKL-JNF friends worldwide.
through the olive groves, families stopped at the various activity
stations to join the fun. At the first stop, children drew pictures of
doves with olive branches in their mouths, the symbol of peace, then
cut the bird out and attached a string to it, so it could be hung as a
decoration in the sukkah. Another station had the children moving in
squares formed by a rope if they knew the answers to questions related
to the history of Ben Shemen. All the activities were conducted by
shinshinim, high school graduates who volunteer for a year of public
service before joining the army, under the bright leadership of
KKL-JNF's Edna Feinstein.
One of the most popular and informative stations was dedicated
to people and nature, focusing on the many and varied ways we use
olives. Elad, the KKL-JNF volunteer conducting the activity, asked what
uses olives have other than for eating. "For soap," the answer came
quickly. "Exactly," Elad replied. "Ever since ancient times, olive oil
has been used on the body, it helps the skin and opens up the pores.
What else?" "Medicines", came the answer. "Excellent," said Elad.
"Doctors recommend drinking one teaspoon of olive oil daily to aid
digestion and to help sleep." "It's also good for earaches," one of the
children added and Elad smiled, saying he learned something new.
We met 11 year old Noga Shwartz and 5 year-old Noy Shem-Tov, or
at least their heads, which could be seen through a hole in a carton
sign with the inscription, "I was at the KKL-JNF Sukkot event with the
volunteers and had a great time." Noga's mother, Hadas, told us that
she preferred KKL-JNF activities during the holiday because they take
place in nature. A friend had just heard on the radio that 11,000
people in Israel have the name Hadas, which means myrtle, one of the
four species of plants the Bible commands the Jewish people to take on
the Sukkot holiday. "It's lucky that your parents didn't name you
lulav," Noy laughed.
At 11:00, the children gathered at the olive grove
to look for envelopes concealed in the olive trees, each of which
contained a paper with a fragment of a story in which an olive was the
narrator. The olive described how it was first planted in the ground as
a seed, how it loves the mountains and hills, and how it grew into an
olive tree. The children could be seen fanning out between the trees,
anxious to find the next envelope.
There was also a walk to another, older olive grove, where
there were archaeological sites from the Second Temple era, wine and
oil presses, caves used for shelter, ritual baths, water cisterns and
burial graves. The KKL-JNF guide explained how the olive tree, like the
Jewish people, had developed stratagems of survival. Unlike other
trees, the roots of the olive tree do not supply nourishment to the
entire tree, but only to certain sections of it. As a result, if one
part of the tree is diseased or uprooted, the other part of the tree
can go on living. Two olive branches appear on the symbol of the state
of Israel, inspired by the vision of the prophet Zechariah, and signify
the unity and balance between the priestly (spiritual) and kingly
Anat Madmoni, who led a KKL-JNF Sukkot activity in British Park, noted
that the Bible doesn't talk about olives as a fruit that you eat. "In
Biblical times, olive trees were primarily a source of olive oil, which
was not used for salads or sautéing vegetables, but for fuel, mainly
light. One of the most interesting things about the olive tree is that
one year it is prolific and gives a lot of fruit while the year after,
there is almost no produce. All the olive trees in the Mediterranean
basin are synchronized around this cycle. On Sukkot, it has become a
KKL-JNF tradition to invite everyone to the olive orchards to
participate in the harvest, but this is the year when there is almost
no fruit, so we are learning about olives rather than picking them.
"Efrat Avodi from Shoham told us that her friend had suggested
they take the kids to a shopping mall in Holon, where there was theater
for children as well as the stores. "I told her that we could go to the
mall anytime," Efrat said, "but when would we have an opportunity to be
in an olive grove and actually learn about nature? And you know what?
The children are actually much calmer and happier here than in that
noisy mall. This is an experience they will take with them and
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