Israel Votes: The Olive Tree Wins KKL-JNF National Tree Competition

Sunday, January 31, 2021 12:00 PM

 
In honor of KKL-JNF's 120th anniversary and the TuBishvat holiday, KKL-JNF launched a "national tree" campaign at the beginning of January.

 
The Olive Tree. Photo: KKL-JNF Photo Archive
 
Out of a list of dozens of trees, the seven contenders for the title were the palm tree (common date), Tabor oak, cedar, eucalyptus, fig, terebinth and the olive tree.

The competition concluded on January 28 and out of almost 148,000 votes that were cast, the olive tree finished in first place with 32.94% of the votes, followed by the Tabor oak in second place and the date palm in third place. The olive tree appears in many symbols, first and foremost on the seal of the state of Israel, where there is a seven-branch menorah with olive branches on each of its sides. As well, the white dove with an olive branch in its mouth, a symbol found in the book of Genesis, returned to Noah's ark, and the branch in its mouth symbolized the end of the flood and eventually became a symbol of peace.

KKL-JNF Chief Forest Officer Suhail Zidan: "The olive tree is very impressive, and the general public has a spiritual connection to this tree". Some of the largest and most impressive olive trees in the Mediterranean basin grow in Israel. "This tree is one of the most important symbols of settlement and ancient agriculture in the land of Israel. The cultivation of olive trees in the land of Israel has been proven to be part of ancient history as early as the First Temple era, when its fruits were used for the production of oil, until the present day. This has been shown by a series of proofs discovered in archaeological digs at many sites including Masada and Tel Gezer, and more. Olive pits and an olive press were also discovered near the sea on the Carmel coast."

KKL-JNF World Chairman Avraham Duvdevani: "KKL-JNF is currently noting its 120th anniversary, and over the years, we have been privileged to have planted about 250 million trees throughout the land of Israel. I am very happy that the olive tree was chosen to be Israel's national tree. The olive tree is mentioned many times in the Bible, it is one of the seven species that the land of Israel takes pride in, and beyond everything else, it has become a symbol of peace. I want to thank the hundreds of thousands of voters who took part in choosing it, and would like to wish a happy TuBishvat to all of Israel."

The fruits of the olive tree in the Biriya Forest. Photo: Michael Huri, KKL-JNF Photo Archive
 
Additional information about olive trees:
 
  • The oldest olive tree in Israel is located in an olive tree plantation in Shefaram near a sandstone road. It is estimated to be over 1,000 years old!
 
  • There are currently about 85,000 acres of olive tree plantations in Israel, from which over 15,000 tons of olive oil are produced annually, along with over 24,000 tons of olives for eating. The tree grows throughout the country and has also played in an important part in our country's afforestation. Every year, KKL-JNF plants about 15,000 olive tree saplings in its forests, along with caring for about 5,500 acres of olive tree plantations.
 
  • Olives also have proven health remedies: olive oil helps reduce blood pressure, prevents ulcers, serves as an antioxidant and lessens the risk of developing cancer.