Monday, October 31, 2011

Olive trees and Eilot

The center is home to 60 olive trees!  These trees produce the olives, that make the oil, that feeds about 100 people 3 times a day, for an entire year!  That’s a lot of oil!  The trees are extremely beautiful and unique.  They are gnarled and dusty.  The leaves are a sage color on the side that faces the sun and more silvery on the underside.  Some people describe the leaves as sparkling when they move in the wind.  Harvesting them was extremely fun, but difficult too.  The tree that cute Lindsay and I were picking from is 1200 years old!  The olives on that tree were pretty small because they had just grafted “good fruit” branches and were trying to tap into it’s roots.
The group picked what felt like millions of olives, but I have no idea how many were actually harvested.  We placed them in a huge vat of water and let them soak for a couple of days.  Then we placed them in a stone container with a huge grindstone and started the crushing process.  After you mash them up they are a pretty sickly green-brown color, that is not appetizing at all.  Then you put the mush into baskets that have the shape of a chinese lantern.  Then, we moved the baskets and stacked about 5 of them on a pressing machine.  A substance then pours from the baskets and it looks really gross.  The substance then separates into oil and some mystery substances.  
I loved this experience!  It was one of the neatest things that I have participated in while being here.  Oil was the substance of life to the ancient world and it was a really romantic experience to take part in.
Just like everything else, there are some misconceptions about olives.  One thing that I had heard in like a million sunday school lessons is how olives turn a bright red right before they are crushed.  I watched thousands of olives be crushed and I didn’t see them turn red.  They turned a smooshed color, but I couldn’t say red.  (Don’t worry, the church is still true!)  Another thing about olives, olives are only edible if they have been pickled or pressed and refined into oil.  There is literally nothing more vile than a fresh, right off the branch olive.  I can’t even describe the bitterness of an unprocessed olive.  Also, there is no such thing as a black olive tree or a green olive tree.  A green olive is picked before the olive is ripe and then processed into a delectable food.  A black olive is picked after the olive turns ripe and then becomes a delicious food that you can stick on your fingertips.
One of my favorite places that I’ve been to while her is Eliot (E-lot).  It is a town located on the red sea and is where Israel, Egypt, Jordan meet.  You can also see Saudi Arabia in the distance.  Ya, really cool.  We went snorkeling there and it was so beautiful.  I had never experienced how peaceful snorkeling is.  It was amazing to see all of the fish and coral existing so peacefully in an area that is anything but that.  We then went to the boardwalk area and it was just charming.  I think I’m a sucker for charm.  I ate the best thing while there.  A crepe that has nutella smeared on it before it is done, and the heat caramelizes the chocolate.  Amazing. 
Something that I wasn’t expecting is how great middle eastern fashion is!  The women over hear always look incredible!  Most women wear a long trench coat for modesty, but they go to town with their scarves, shoes and bags.  I love how creative they are.  Every piece of their outfit is carefully selected and just looks so great!  Right next to the money changer, Aladdin’s, there is the best shop ever!  They always have 10 nis (new israeli shekel) tops that are adorable!  This is about $2.50.  Great thing to have found?  Yes.

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