Olives – a symbol of peace

Hardly a day goes by without talk of the Middle-East Crisis. This has been a constant throughout my life. This summer I am teaching an ethnography of the Mediterranean course at UBC and as I prepare my syllabus I am looking at different ways I can work olives into my teaching. Olives as food, culture, landscape, a good for trade and barter and as a symbol of peace and discontent.

While reading about the Mediterranean Voices project, I came across this image. These are bottles of olive oil from the Cremisan monastery, whose land was divided by the Separation Wall. Olive trees in Palestine have been hard hit by conflict. In fact, these trees are particularly loaded symbols of not only peace but also ownership and settlement. To plant olive trees is to stake claim to land; olive trees are potent symbols of life, culture and a thriving community. Over the past decades olive trees have been planted and torn out in contested areas of Palestine and Israel.

When will the olive tree return to the Middle East as a symbol of peace?

2 thoughts on “Olives – a symbol of peace

  1. Daniel

    I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Olives – a symbol of peace, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  2. rachel Post author

    Hi Daniel,

    Olives have been a symbol of peace for a long time: just think of the dove carrying the olive branch. You can find references to this symbol in everything from Greek literature to the bible. In the present conflict, olives are planted and torn out as each party tries to lay claim to land.



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