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Love those Olives

Thursday 20 November 2008, by Deb Reich

Children of the Wahat al-Salam - Neve Shalom Primary School participate in the olive harvest.

The sun rose bright and cheery on the morning of this year’s "Olive Day" at the Primary School at Wahat al Salam / Neve Shalom (November 3, 2008).

For some time beforehand, classroom discussions piqued everyone’s interest in every imaginable aspect of olives and olive oil. The olive has a special place in Arab and Palestinian culture and in Jewish Israeli culture, and the children learned all about it.

First thing on the day itself, each class sat down with drawings about the olive harvest and colored them in. They completed the worksheets their teachers handed around, with facts about the annual olive harvest, the production of olive oil, and the various historical dimensions of the subject – from the time of Noah’s Ark right on through today.

After two hours of this creative activity, and a bit of breakfast, the entire school went on foot across the fields to the neighboring Monastery of Latrun.

Everyone participated! All the students, all the teachers, and the young volunteers who work at the Primary School. It was about a 45-minute walk.

Harvesting, sculpting, observing, and baking

The third-grade group went directly to the olive groves and picked olives alongside the monks, watched over by Abouna (Father) Paul.

The other groups went their various ways…:

One group did art projects under the supervision of Solange (the art teacher), creating their own personal olive trees from clay and decorating them with leaves and branches. These were exhibited for everyone, there at the monastery, and later moved to the school itself, where they also went on display.

Another group went to the olive press, where they could watch the entire production process – from the moment the containers of freshly-picked olives arrive at the doorway, get washed, have leaves and stems removed, and go into the press - emerging as delicious olive oil, which the children naturally tasted right there on the spot.

Breaking bread together

There was also a food corner, of course! There the children prepared dough and made pita bread, which was baked in a gas-fired oven set up for that purpose ahead of time.

Everyone brought the fixings for an ample communal breakfast, including eggs for a giant omelet, fresh vegetables for a salad, cheese, olives, olive oil and za’atar (a traditional blend of toasted sesame seeds and dried herbs).

Each class took its turn at the breakfast table, and the atmosphere was most congenial.

To round out the day, everyone gathered together and listened to one another’s stories of what they had learned on Olive Day. When it was time to go home, the school minivans came to the monastery and fetched the children home again direct from there – tired, well fed, and happy.

A slideshow of the Olive Day:

Photographs of Olive Day and many other Primary School activities from the last two years can be found here.

Take a look and share in the fun!

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