Reflections on olive trees and peace: themes from Taste & See series. How are olive trees symbols of peace, resilience and hope?

Peace puts forth her olive everywhere. — Shakespeare

Like a twisted olive tree in its 500th year, giving then its finest fruit, is man. How can he give forth wisdom until he has been crushed and turned in the Hand of God. — Rabbi Akiva

It’s the little things citizens do. That’s what will make the difference. My little thing is planting trees. Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

High on the stern Aeneas his stand,
And held a branch of olive in his hand,
… This message bear: The Trojans and their chief
Bring holy peace, and beg the king’s relief.
— Virgil, Aeneid Some uses of the olive branch and olive tree in music. There’s something for almost every musical preference:

Questions to consider about olive trees and peace work. Note that people have literally won Nobel Peace Prizes for planting trees, such as Wangari Maathai. Meanwhile, Desmond Tutu writes thatPEACE WITHIN … described as “inner peace” … is concerned with peace on a personal level, dealing with both the spiritual as well as the emotional/psychological dimensions. PEACE BETWEEN … focuses on an individual and their relationships with their family, friends and the community around them … a dialogue between individuals and/or groups of individuals, helping … to learn forgiveness and reconciliation methods with which to prevent and overcome conflict … to recognize and celebrate our differences, and … look at people who do not look like us, believe as we do, or come from where we come from with the anticipation of something positive instead of the apprehension of something negative. PEACE AMONG … learn what is happening in the world, and about conflicts and violence in particular … how [conflicts] are being addressed and what role [people] can play in helping resolve these conflicts peacefully … facilitating discussions and incorporating voices of people from across the planet … to better recognize our common humanity and work together to make this world a better place.”

  • How would you work on Peace Within, Peace Between, and Peace Among? Which versions of peace do you already cultivate well? Which ones do you want or need to strengthen for balance and opportunities to make change in your life and in the world?
  • What in your life has longevity, like olive trees that are thousands of years old, growing in the land of spiritual ancestors? To what or whom do you feel connected, a presence that goes back decades or centuries, connecting you to history, but also connecting you to hope and the promise that it will be present in the future?
  • How does the the olive tree, whether it’s the image of the leafing branch carried by the dove, or the presence of groves of ancient trees rooted deep in the land, resonate in your life? What are your own spiritual symbols of peace and resilience and hope?

Reference: Some scripture selections from Genesis 8, Deuteronomy 8, Psalm 52, Isaiah 41, John 15 and Romans 11.


Saturday Morning, 10 AM (excerpt) — Jan Richardson

Justice and Peace meet at the café, sit together,
hands folded around steaming cups, heads bent over the paper.

They are not taking in the news of the world
with sorrowing eyes and the clucking of tongues.

They are instead planning their itinerary, plotting their map,
looking for the places where they might slip in …Dance Me to the End of Love(excerpt) Leonard Cohen lyricsDance me to your beauty with a burning violinDance me through the panic till I’m gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of loveDance me to the end of love The Olive Tree (excerpt) Basia
One day … My good friend said I should hug an olive tree,
She claimed that dreams come true when you do, but
Can a plant be in any way that beneficial to me?
Though I’m a famous skeptic, feet on the ground,
This time I wanted this to be true …
So when … you’ve got dreams, Look for some … olive trees …
Some olive branch must have heard my desperate heart
’cause I wear the crown (the olive crown,
I wear the olive crown) And so do you
Amazing Peace (excerpt) — Maya Angelou
On this platform of peace, we can create a language
To translate ourselves to ourselves and to each other.
… We shout with glorious tongues at the coming of hope.
All the earth’s tribes loosen their voices
To celebrate the promise of Peace.
We, Angels and Mortal’s, Believers and Non-Believers,
Look heavenward and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at our world and speak the word aloud.
Peace. We look at each other, then into ourselves
And we say without shyness or apology or hesitation.
Peace, My Brother. Peace, My Sister. Peace, My Soul. Of Olive Trees: Temple of Life

If the Olive Trees knew the hands that planted them, Their Oil would become Tears. — Mahmoud Darwish

The olive tree is surely the richest gift of Heaven. I can scarcely expect bread. — Thomas Jefferson

The groves were God’s first temples. — William C. Bryant

If you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine, and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her. — Odysseas ElytisScience of Olive Trees (Disease & Cure) — Charles Eisenstein (full article link)

A new disease called Olive Quick Decline Syndrome (OQDS) is ravaging olive groves that date back to Roman times and before, some with 2000-year-old trees. Leaves wither as is scorched by fire, twigs and branches die back, and the trees quickly die …

The Xylella theory names insects such as the meadow spittlebug as the transmission vectors for the bacteria; accordingly, authorities are pushing for the elimination of all ground vegetation around the olive trees to deprive the insects of habitat, as well as the heavy use of insecticides. The model is a monoculture of olive trees on bare soil. Maybe a few of the majestic 2000-year-old trees can be preserved for tourism …

A second theory has been advanced by Marghertia Ciervo of the University of Foggia, among other researchers. It says that Xylella infection is a symptom, and not a cause, of OQDS, and that it may not even be an exogenous species. It opportunistically breaks out in the presence of what these researchers name as the deeper causes: primarily, the degradation of soil due to poor agricultural practices. For example … growers in recent years have made heavy use of glyphosate and other herbicides to remove ground-cover to allow easier harvesting. …

The solutions implemented by local organic growers, such as mineral supplementation, microbiome restoration, proper pruning, and the maintenance of biodiverse plant and animal ecosystems in olive groves, have in common a glaring problem. They are economically inefficient in the context of the global market. Farmers using these methods will never be able to compete in conventional commodity markets against industrial plantations …

Where the conventional perspective on the olive tree deaths is that a killer bacteria is attacking them, we might view it differently: as the cry of the land, calling our attention to its suffering. Shall we listen to that cry? Or shall we continue to add to its suffering?

It is quite affecting to observe how much the olive tree is to the country people. Its fruit supplies them with food, medicine and light; its leaves, winter fodder for the goats and sheep; it is their shelter from the heat and its branches and roots supply them with firewood. The olive tree is the peasant’s all-in-all. — Fredrika Bremer

Look at the tree. [It] is a wonderful thing, a tree. A tree is very beautiful. A tree to me is as beautiful as a cathedral, even more beautiful. I look[ed] into the tree and I saw the whole cosmos in it. I saw the sunshine in the tree. Can you see the sunshine in the tree? Yes, because without the sunshine, no tree can grow. I see a cloud in the tree. Can you see? Without a cloud, there can be no rain, no tree. I see the earth in the tree. I see everything in the tree. So the tree is where everything in the cosmos comes into, and the cosmos reveals itself to me through a tree. Therefore, a tree to me is a cathedral, and I can take refuge in the tree and I can get nourished by the tree… I can get in touch with the tree only if I go back to the present moment, because the tree can only be found in the present moment. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Olive trees carry more than an economic significance … They are not just like any another trees, they are symbolic of … attachment to … land. Because the trees are draught-resistant and grow under poor soil conditions, they represent … resistance and resilience. The fact that olive trees live and bear fruit for thousands of years is parallel to … history and continuity on the land. … oldest olive trees, dating back to 4,000 years … trees that have been passed down … for generations and the olive harvest season … bears a socio-cultural meaning where families come together to harvest olive trees bearing in mind that their
forefathers and mothers had tended to the same trees several years ago. — Olive Tree Facts, Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy

A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God’s first temples … — John Muir

For years I study. I look long at olive trees, all gray and silver, and watch the sunlight. Ah, yes, I am ver’ lazy, but I see after I look long that it is perspective that give it this quality. Perspective, and absolute faith to the subject. — Ugo Mochi

O Love! what hours were thine and mine, In lands of palm and southern pine; In lands of palm, of orange-blossom, Of olive, aloe, and maize and vine! — Alfred Lord Tennyson

And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. — William Shakespeare

In this way, his unhappy soul struggled with its anguish. Eighteen hundred years before this unfortunate man, the mysterious Being, in whom all the sanctities and all the sufferings of humanity come together, He too, while the olive trees trembled in the fierce breath of the Infinite, had brushed away the fearful cup that appeared before him, streaming with shadow and running over with darkness, in the star-filled depths. — Victor Hugo

When a man’s pride is subdued it’s like the sides of Mount Aetna. It was terrible during the eruption, but when that is over and the lava is turned into soil, there are vineyards and olive trees which grow up to the top. — Henry Ward BeecherOlive Branch as a
Symbol of Peace

[W]ar is a question, under our constitution, not of Executive, but of Legislative cognizance. It belongs to Congress to say whether the Nation shall of choice dismiss the olive branch and unfurl the banners of War. — Alexander Hamilton

We are all familiar with the dove carrying an olive branch as a peace offering. … I’ve created … tribute both to the messenger’s noble mission and gardens as a refuge of peace and tranquility. — Paloma Picasso

The olive branch has been consecrated to peace, palm branches to victory, the laurel to conquest and poetry, the myrtle to love and pleasure, the cypress to mourning, and the willow to despondency. — Dorothea Dix

Liberals would prefer it if the bald eagle on the Great Seal was holding olive branches in both talons, or, better, an olive branch in one, and maybe a soft cushion in the other, to entice our enemies to lie down and snooze. — Mike Gallagher

I come bearing an olive branch in one hand, and the freedom fighter’s gun in the other. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand. — Yasser Arafat

I know more about wheat and olive trees than I do about politics. — Ariel Sharon

Humility has such power. Apologies can disarm arguments. Contrition can defuse rage. Olive branches do more good than battle axes ever will. — Max Lucado

In war the olive branch of peace is of use. [Lat., Adjuvat in bello pacatae ramus olivae.]Ovid

Who we are really shows up between extending the olive branch and waiting to see if it is received. — Bonnie Lyn Smith

Information is a beacon, a cudgel, an olive branch, a deterrent–all depending on who wields it and how. — Steven Levitt

[Noah’s dove] announced to the world the assuagement of divine wrath, when she had been sent out of the ark and returned with the olive branch … [Holy Spirit] bringing us the peace of God, sent out from the heavens. — Tertullian

Perpetual peace is indicated by the olive branch (oleae ramusculo) which the dove brought with it when it returned to the ark. — St AugustinePEACE WORKER QUOTATIONS

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. — 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us? — Dorothy Day, Catholic Workers Movement founder

In recognizing the humanity of our fellow beings, we pay ourselves the highest tribute. — Thurgood Marshall, Supreme Court Justice

We aren’t passengers on Spaceship Earth. We’re the crew. We aren’t residents on this planet. We’re citizens. The difference in both cases is responsibility. — Apollo Astronaut Rusty SchweickartPeace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. — President John F. Kennedy

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner. — Nelson Mandela, Apartheid Activist & President of So Africa

I offer you peace. I offer you love. I offer you friendship. I see your beauty. I hear your need. I feel your feelings. – Mahatma Gandhi, nonviolent activist and leader of Indian independence movement

Work for what you believe in, but pick your battles, and don’t burn your bridges. Don’t be afraid to take charge, think about what you want,then do the work, but then enjoy what makes you happy, bring along your crew, have a sense of humor.— Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Justice

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. — St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta

We have to be in the present time, because only the present is real, only in the present can we be alive.  We do not practice for the sake of the future, to be reborn in a paradise, but to be peace, to be compassion, to be joy right now. Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist Monk & Peace Activist

I raise my voice not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.― Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise
that every human life is of inestimable value. — Bishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

We all share one planet and are one humanity; there is no escaping this reality. ― Wangari Maathai

When you have a conflict, that means that there are truths that have to be addressed on each side of the conflict. And when you have a conflict, then it’s an educational process to try to resolve the conflict. And to resolve that, you have to get people on both sides of the conflict involved so that they can dialogue.— Dolores Huerta, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and co-founder of National Farm Workers Association

Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love. —  Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader & Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have
and all that they are. — Hafsat Abiola, Nigerian Human Rights Activist

We gave thanks for the story, for all parts of the story because it was by the light of those challenges we knew ourselves— We asked for forgiveness. We laid down our burdens next to each other. — Joy Harjo, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings (excerpt), Poet Laureate & Mysoke Nation Poet

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