With its deep roots, steadfastness, gnarled and hollow trunk, and multipurpose fruit and oil, it serves as a symbol of survival, oneness with the land, and peace. Let's take a closer look at the multi-dimensional olive tree!
Tu B'shvat – New Year of the Trees (חג האילנות, Chag Ha’ilanot) – was originally the ancient fiscal new year created to calculate the age of trees for tithing. Today, it is celebrated in Israel with tree planting and as an environmental awareness day.
Trees (and planting significant numbers of them!) are of great importance in Israel. Many Israelis are named after trees. In your classrooms, among your friends, and in the halls of the Knesset, you will find people named: Amira (treetop), Oren (pine), Ilanit (tree), Elah (terebinth), Alona (oak), Erez (cedar), Hadas (myrtle), Tomer (palm) and Shaked (almond).
Even though you are unlikely to find a kid named Zayit (olive), of all the trees, the olive tree has special national meaning, which we will explore below.
The dove returned to the ark with an olive branch in its beak, and Israel adopted the (now universal) symbol of peace as a main element in both the Emblem of the State and of the IDF.
- How the olive branch is used in both images?
- Why do you think the olive branch is used in both emblems?
- What do you notice about the depictions of the olive branches?
Park of Olives - Environmental Sculpture and Planting
Park of Olives, an environmental art project designed by the sculptor Ran Moran in the 80s and 90s, consists of 200 olive trees planted in a circular pattern around two monumental columns, each supporting its own olive tree. The park sits atop the Ramat Rachel Mountain, at the edge of a hill that overlooks the road that links central Jerusalem to the ancient Herodion fortress. This road is known as "Ancestors' Road," and was once the main entrance to the Jerusalem.
The trees continue to grow and bear fruit thanks to a specially designed irrigation system and the constant care that Israel provides.
Olive Wood Souvenirs
Since the end of the 19th century, particularly after the establishment of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in 1906, carved olive wood souvenirs from Israel are coveted and collected.
In a modern twist, artist Ken Goldman brings us a contemporary memento – a carved olive wood scale model of the separation wall. This is a small reminder that the olive tree holds deep connotation and acts as a metaphor for rootedness to people who inhabit the land on both sides of the wall.
Israeli Visual Arts
Artists in Israel have been fascinated by the olive tree for many decades, and have interpreted its significance and symbolism in their own ways. We bring you a few samples from Anna Ticho, Menashe Kadishman, and Tal Shochat.
"Old Olive Tree" by Anna Ticho, 1935
Menashe Kadishman circa 1975-1980
"Olive" by Tal Shochat, 2011
Trees! Lesson Plans for Tu B'shvat
We are happy to share with you a program that was developed by Rabbi Avi Deutsch for Jewish LearningWorks’ BASIS project.
Shalom Sesame's Tu B'Shvat Videos