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October 21, 2013 10:53 am

Israel’s 980-Year-Old Olive Tree Celebrated in ‘Days of the Olive Branch’ Festival

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Deir Hanna's old olive tree. Photo: Screenshot.

Deir Hanna's old olive tree. Photo: Screenshot.

Israel’s “Days of the Olive Branch” Festival, the 19th edition of the celebration of the Jewish state’s historic role in the olive and olive oil business, including playing host to the world’s oldest olive tree, kicked off this week in the Galilee, Israel’s Ma’ariv daily reported.

The oldest olive tree, estimated by some to be 980 years old and by others to be 3,000 years old, is located in nearby Deir Hanna in the Lower Galilee region, and belongs to the family of Hassan Khatib, who lives in the village.

Its circumference is 8.7 meters, as wide as eight people holding hands around it. The most surprising thing about the old tree is that it still produces about 20 kg of olive oil per year.

“This tree is a living sculpture. Think how much oil this tree gave over the years. All the families it provided for” Dr. Ali Abbas, a member of the Israeli Plants Council, told Ma’ariv.

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Dr. Abbas said that historians once believed that Romans brought the olive tree to Israel, but the discovery of a 6,000-year-old press in Israel shows that the industry began in the Jewish state, before being exported to Greece, Italy and Spain, today, the world’s largest olive oil producers.

Israel today produces 20,000 tons of olive oil each year, which is roughly equal to annual domestic consumption. Each Israeli consumes an average of 3 kg of oil per year. In Spain, average consumption is between 9 and 10 kg per person per year and, in Greece, it’s 24 kg.

Olive oil is one of the most powerful natural antioxidants and contains a large amount of vitamin E.

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