The Olive Tree, an Emblem of Hope.

272 days. That’s about how long Noah and his family had been living aboard the ark when the first emblem of new life was revealed. Genesis 8:11 says, “This time the dove returned to [Noah] in the evening with a fresh olive leaf in its beak.” Hope in the form of an olive leaf. Noah had sent a dove beyond the walls of the ark to seek dry land after many months surrounded by only the sight of endless floodwaters. The dove’s return with this olive leaf was a symbol to Noah and his family. Hope for a new life, hope for a future.

For centuries, the olive tree has been vital to life for Palestinians living in the Holy Land. In a dry and rocky terrain, olive trees can thrive and live for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. The livelihood of many locals here in the land of Christ’s birth depends upon the life of the olive tree. Every part of the tree is used. From delicious olives found on the table at nearly every meal to the olive oil used for food, skincare, healing, and, in times past, for light. The wood from the tree is also used to create beautiful items ranging from household items to nativities and other decorative pieces and works of art. And did you know that the wood for carving from the olive tree comes from pruning or from trees that have died or are no longer producing fruit. No living, thriving tree is arbitrarily cut down for the purpose of carving. This would be a careless act for such an esteemed commodity.

These hand-carving skills have been passed on from generation to generation going back as early as the 4th century in Bethlehem. Even the dust and shavings from the carvings is repurposed for burning in heaters to create warmth. Nothing is wasted.

So you can see, from ancient times throughout the centuries up to this day, the olive tree continues to represent life, strength, and vitality. And just like it was for Noah, it still is a symbol of hope. Hope for prosperity. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for future generations.