Olive trees are native to Israel and are an important part of Jewish history. Besides the health benefits of olives, olive oil is so important and ancient that it is mentioned numerous times in the Bible.

Olive oil history

Archaeological evidence proves that olive oil has been produced in Israel for at least eight thousand years. In fact, the first recorded oil extraction is from the Hebrew Bible and took place during the Exodus from Egypt. During this time, the olive oil was obtained by hand-squeezing the berries. It was then kept in special containers under priestly supervision. The first reference to olives in the Bible is in Genesis. After Noah survived the flood, he sent out a bird, which returned with an olive branch. This proved that the waters had receded enough for trees to be visible.

Olive Oil Production

Olive trees do not mature quickly, and it can take twelve or more years of patient care to get good quality olive oil. This represents a certain degree of settlement and peace. But with only a little attention given, an adult olive tree will continue to produce heavily (usually every other year) for many hundreds of years. Farmers expect yields from a good tree to be anywhere from ten to fifteen gallons of oil each season.

The Six Steps

1. The first step is to harvest the olives. In ancient times, people harvested olives during the period from September to late October, right after the first rains.

2. People then separate the olives into two groups – one for pickling, and the other for crushing.

3. They crush the olives to make a pasty and oily pulp.

4. The next step is to gather the pulp and place it in baskets. The olive oil makers stack the baskets on top of each other.

5. Pressing the oil. The workers put a lot of pressure on the baskets and the oil squeezes out.

6. They refine the oil. The workers do this by letting it sit for several days in the collection pit before using it.

Today, olive trees can be found throughout Israel. They are a living sign of the millennia-long connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel.