Autumn is olive harvest time in the Galilee.
Every year, my husband Ron and I pick and cure enough olives to supply us and our friends through the entire year. Some years we also ramp up the effort and pick olives to make oil—a serious commitment of time and energy, but the joy of using your own oil makes it well worth it.
Since I met my good friend Balkees, I also like to join her family in the village of Reine, near Nazareth, in their annual olive harvest.
A few years ago, Balkees came to visit me at the tail end of the olive season. She immediately noticed the olive tree in my yard, heavy with ripe black fruit. I had been trying to ignore that tree, since we still had plenty of oil from the year before and were too busy to contemplate a serious harvest. “You can’t leave all those olives on the tree,” she admonished.
“I tell you what,” I replied. “If you come pick with me, I’ll do it.” The next day she came over, and we set to work on that tree.
After an entire day grappling with its branches (picking olives is demanding physical work), we filled about 10 cardboard boxes. When Ron came home, he was mildly impressed—75 kilos he guessed.
The next afternoon, we loaded up the car and drove to the olive press in Arrabe, a town in the heart of olive country. Piling the boxes onto the scale, the fruits of our harvest tipped in at 95 kilos! Then we poured the olives into the hopper of the press and waited excitedly with our 18-liter yellow plastic jerrycan at the other end.
After about half an hour, the green oil started to pour into the container. Gradually, the oil continued to fill it until, to our amazement, we saw that it was soon going to spill over. In our wildest imagination, we hadn’t foreseen producing more than 18 liters of oil! The press owner ran and brought us an empty soda bottle—and then another one.
This is some kind of miracle, I thought. Then I realized it: that evening was exactly the last night of Chanukah, and we were experiencing our own Chanukah olive oil miracle!
We divided the oil, Balkees and I—the blessed yield of our cooperative effort. And even though I know I’m not objective, the flavor of that oil was out of this world.