Olive Oil Season: A West Bank Kitchen Story
Canaan story

I’d looked, but hadn’t really seen, hadn’t touched, hadn’t even thought much about these gnarly creatures and their rootedness in the landscape. Hadn’t considered what they say about the Palestinian culture and its hidden kitchen: the annual olive harvest. “If anyone wants to get his son married, he says, ‘Well, after the olive oil season,'” Dr. Osama Odeh, a PhD in electrochemistry and olive expert, told me one day as we toured his family-supported olive cooperative in his home village of Bidya. “If he wants to buy clothes for his kids he makes it after the olive oil season. If he wants to build an additional room on his house, he makes it after the season. It’s a matter of life for them.” And for Odeh himself.

Umm Adnan Yasin holds a metal pan that she uses to separate the leaves from the olives, in the West Bank village of Bili’in.

Sandy Tolan for NPR

When you think about it, it shouldn’t be surprising that Odeh is an olive-obsessed man. In Arabic, the root word for his town means “the stone for crushing olives.” At the town center stands an old press, with twin one-ton stones of granite that crush olives into oil. And Odeh is just one in an endless and ancient line of farmers — many of whom now have professional day jobs — whose life is transformed every fall, when ripe olives return to the trees. ‘Like Jewels in the Mountains’ That’s when Palestinians leave their school and work, drag their tarps and ladders, donkeys and pickup trucks to the groves and begin to pick. “They are like jewels in the mountains,” said the Palestinian artist Rana Bishara. “They glow in the landscape of Palestine,” inviting villagers to renew the ritual. “The life comes again!” shouted the young farmer, Abdul Razzak Abu Rahma, on the second day of the harvest at Bili’in. As if that weren’t enough, he looked at me with a beatific smile and began gesturing with his hands. “The life comes again for us!” he said. “You can’t imagine this feeling! You can’t have words for this feeling!

November 22, 2007
By: Sandy Tolan

Read More, Follow the link: Olive Oil Season: A West Bank Kitchen Story

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts
Follow us