When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Israel

Palestinian Olives, A Middle East Parable Of Hard Times

Times of bounty
Times of bounty
Dani Rubinstein

TEL AVIV — Olive branches are a symbol of peace, but Palestinian olive production has become a sign of the economic troubles that come with Middle East conflict.

The approximately 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of olive groves represent around 45% of Palestinian agriculture land, with most centered in the West Bank's mountainous territories. With more than eight million trees, olive production is the largest agricultural sector for the Palestinian Authority, supporting some 100,000 families and nearly half a million people in total.

With the olive harvest season's end approaching, data published last week by the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture is sufficient to show lack of growth in Palestinian agriculture and the Palestinian economy as a whole.

Beyond pure economics, the olive sector has a national and cultural value. It has long been a major ingredient in the daily life and folklore of rural families, as generations of Palestinians work the groves, shaking out the trees over large plastic sheets.

The biggest olives are kept for eating, while the rest are used for oil, delivered to olive presses spread from Hebron to the north of Samaria. At the same time, the by-product of olives (the waste remaining after the oil press) is used for heating. The oil is used for making soap, and the trees that no longer produce fruit are used for carving sculptures.

But even as the site of twisted branches are slowly disappearing, the demand for olive oil is growing annually. In Palestinian kitchens, it is used for cooking, frying and seasoning. The average consumption of olive oil is 3 kilograms per person annually.

Outdated techniques

This year was supposed to be a good year. The Ministry of Agriculture predicted around 17 to 18 tons of oil produced, but the result was a disappointing 13 tons. Israel, however, where there are fewer olive groves — some 300,000 hectares in total — produced 18 tons of oil. The explanation for the disparity lies mainly in the modernity of oversite in Israeli olive groves, and the fact that almost 50,000 hectares are irrigated, which reduces the number of olives lost in the process.

During successful years in the past, Palestinian farmers managed to sell up to seven tons of oil to Israel, Jordan and to Gulf countries. But with the low output this year, virtually all of the harvest will be used locally.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

eyes on the U.S.

Eyes On U.S. — California, The World Is Worried About You

As an Italian bestseller explores why people are fleeing the Golden State, the international press also takes stock of unprecedented Silicon Valley layoffs. It may be a warning for the rest of the world.

Photo of a window pane with water droplets reflecting Facebook's thumb up logo, with one big thumb down in the background

Are you OK, Meta?

Ginevra Falciani and Bertrand Hauger

-Analysis-

For as long as we can remember, the world has seen California as the embodiment of the American Dream.

Today, this dream may be fading — and the world is taking notice.

A peek at the Italian list of non-fiction best-sellers in 2022 includes California by Francesco Costa, a book that looks to explain why 340,000 people moved out of the state last year, causing a drop in its population for the first time ever.

To receive Eyes on U.S. each week in your inbox, sign up here.

Why are all these people leaving a state that on paper looks like the best place in the world to live? Why are stickers with the phrase “Don't California my Texas” attached to the back of so many pick-up trucks?

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest