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Start of olive harvest in Gethsemane

Start of olive harvest in Gethsemane

JERUSALEM – Olives harvest started on Saturday October 17 on Mount of Olives. An occasion for many volunteers “to work in the footsteps of Christ”.

The Garden of Gethsemane is one of the most symbolic places of Jerusalem; an almost obligatory pause for all pilgrims coming  from all over the world who crisscross  the Holy Land in the footsteps of Christ.  From this spot, every year starts the procession of Holy Thursday, led by Fr Custos, towards the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu, built on the site where Jesus spent the night in prison.

The olive trees garden, located behind the Church of All Nations, includes some centuries old olive trees, all strikingly having the same DNA.  It is believed that the mother-tree, which allowed these slips, had lived the night when Jesus, at the beginning of his passion, withdrew to pray.

Some yet older plants, dating to the times of the Crusaders, live close to the olive trees in this garden entrusted to the guardianship of the Franciscans.  Maintenance is secured by the community of the Fathers, helped by many volunteers, namely for the trimming of trees and picking olives.

In this lot of 1200 sq.m. volunteers from 15 different countries gathered to start picking the olives.  They are all invited to come and help, and spend time in the footsteps of Christ.  Other than the material aspect, Fr Diego, in charge of the harvest, sees also a spiritual dimension in this action: “it is one more occasion to follow Jesus in the field”.

The olive branch, symbol of peace, urges volunteers to pray for peace in the Holy Land. For Fra Diego “We meet over here to follow the teachings of Christ who seeks to gather us like a hen which gathers her chicken under her wings” (Mt 23: 37-39).

Olives will be sent to the Abbey of Latroun to extract oil, allotted for sale and consumption by brothers and religious communities of the Holy Land.  Part of the oil, produce of the harvest, will be consecrated during the Holy Week.  Holy Oil will then be sent across parishes of the Patriarchate, as well as to monasteries the world all over.

Volunteers will be relieving one another during the whole week to pick the fruits of an abundant season.

Thomas Charrière