Olives, we love you!

Israel may be the land of milk and honey, but the olive harvest is a perfect time to see how the favorite snack is picked and preserved.

Olives are smashed with a rock during a children’s olive-pressing workshop. (photo credit: SOPHIE MEKULADA)
Olives are smashed with a rock during a children’s olive-pressing workshop.
(photo credit: SOPHIE MEKULADA)
We are now at the peak of the olive harvest, and it is the perfect time to visit olive presses in the Galilee and Golan Heights – where celebrations of the 20th Olive Festival are taking place.
The festival celebrates the age-old tradition of olive oil production, and offers many attractions for the whole family. Guests will learn how olives are processed at more than 60 northern communities.
What’s so special about olives, you may ask? For starters, olive trees live longer than most trees in the region.
It’s no coincidence they are mentioned in the Torah numerous times – for instance, the olive is one of the Seven Species of the Land of Israel.
Moreover, according to Arab-Israeli lore, the olive tree at the entrance to the village of Deir Hanna is where the biblical dove from Noah’s Ark plucked the olive branch. Indeed, olive branches have since been considered a symbol of peace.
Olives are known to be nutritious and can be stored for extended periods. Olive oil can be used for cooking, baking and cosmetic and medical treatments; in recent years, the oil has again become popular throughout the world.
The festival will continue through November 18, in cooperation with the Negev and Galilee Development, Tourism and Agriculture ministries; the Prime Minister’s Office; the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab, Druse and Circassian Sectors; the Israeli Olive Board; the Galilee Development Authority; and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund. The large number of partners illustrates the importance of both the olive industry and olives as a multicultural symbol in Israel.
The Olive Festival offers dozens of venues; here are a few highlights:
Saba Haviv Olive Press
At the olive press at Kibbutz Parod, guests will learn how olive oil is produced; children and the young at heart can throw olives under the millstones and watch as they get crushed and turned into oil. A number of free family activities will also be offered: olive harvesting, painting of ceramic jugs, workshops involving olive presses and art. At the Saturday fair, local artists will sell their wares.
Date and time: Tomorrow, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Details: (04) 699-1888.
Tours of the olive press will take place rain or shine.
The Jahshan Family Olive Press
The Jahshan family from the Galilee village of Maghar will be holding a series of culinary workshops at the visitors center at Moshav Kalanit in the Lower Galilee. Every Saturday during the festival, Israeli Chefs Association professionals will prepare authentic foods, and Ilan the flutist will put on a show of musical stories and hold workshops on how to make a flute out of bamboo.
Guests may also take part in olive oil production, and in workshops on how to pickle olives and prepare labaneh balls; artist Naif Shahada will lead an art workshop using colored sand.
Dates and times: Today, 9 a.m. until start of Shabbat; tomorrow, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Details: 050-788-1481.
Activities will take place rain or shine.
Olive Celebration at Yirka
The festival is a great opportunity for guests to see this Galilee village from a different perspective, with walking and car tours for the whole family.
The free guided tours will take in olive presses and open houses. Licensed tour guides who live in the village will lead guests down its narrow alleyways and up to important viewpoints.
Dates and times: Saturdays, November 15, 22 and 29. Walking tours will set out at 10 a.m. from the municipality; car tours will leave at 1 p.m. from the Emesh Star shopping center’s southern parking lot.
Details and registration: Mofid Abu Rish, 054- 260-0094; Salah Salah, 054-442-0301.
Goren Olive Press and Winery
Lying on Road 899 North, Goren’s olive press and winery won first place for the fourth consecutive year in the international olive oil competition.
At the visitors center, guests can hear lectures and explanations about the olive oil production process, the oil’s unique properties and how to differentiate between genuine and fake oil.
Dates and times: All week long, including Saturday, 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.
Details: 052-885-4255.
Activities are free of charge.
Evening of Light
One of the best ways to learn about our country’s history is to walk the land; to that end, take a lantern-lit guided walk through the winding trails of Jordan Park, in the magical nighttime atmosphere.
The group will stop along the way to hear folklore, stories and songs associated with olive oil.
Dates and times: Weekends at dusk.
Details and required pre-registration: 052-651- 7744.
Price: NIS 150 per family.
Five-family minimum.
The Olive Race: Riddles and Treasure Hunts
If you are looking for an adventure in the Golan, a new smartphone app asks riddles about olives that can only be solved at different locations.
Each station involves photography, writing or painting; guests will take home a completed video clip as a souvenir.
Dates and times: All week long.
Details: 052-651-7744.
Price: NIS 75 per family.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.