The Jew And The Carrot

King Solomon and the Olive Trees

By Miriam Kresh

  • Print
  • Share Share
Miriam Kresh

It’s Hanukkah, and we’ve been hearing a lot about olive oil. But consider the olive tree; its noble wood and generous shade; its gnarled beauty; its fruit, and the pungent oil pressed out of that fruit.

A trip to the Galilee brought me to Druze villages where residents traditionally make their living from the olive harvest. My guide was Nivin, a young Druze woman. We drove past modern olive groves planted against green hills. She indicated where to stop, at the edge of another olive orchard. This one’s trees are 2000 years old.

They thrive on winter rains alone, and for this reason, the ancient farmers spaced them well apart, making room for each one to receive sunshine and moisture without competition. It was a cool, blue afternoon, and we walked between the great, silent trees with a certain awe. They had been set down into that soil as flexible saplings when Solomon’s Temple still stood.

The trees continued to grow slowly throughout the centuries, making new wood that curved outward, so that each tree’s heart was exposed, or curved back towards the mother tree so that a wooden hollow was formed that’s big enough for an adult to stand in. And those ancient trees are still producing fruit. Their branches were so heavy with sun-warmed, blue-black olives that they bowed almost to the ground.

As we walked through the orchard, Nivin told me a Druze folk tale, about the olive and King Solomon. King Solomon had the supernatural power of understanding all living creatures’ languages. He would leave his palace to walk through fields and forests, conversing with beasts and plants, gathering and distilling their wisdom. For this, all natural beings loved him. When the great king died, nature went into mourning. The trees deliberately shed their foliage, so that their bare branches rattled sadly in the winter gusts. But not every tree did this. To the disgust of the others, the olive stood in its full glory of green and silver leaves.

“Why aren’t you mourning the passing of Solomon?” the trees asked the olive. “Don’t you care? Look at us. The mulberry, the almond, the oak — all our greenery has fallen to the ground. Everyone can see how sad we are. Yet you are indifferent. You haven’t shed one leaf. Where’s your heart?”

The wind blew through the olive’s branches, and the beautiful pointed leaves turned this way and that, like a woman tossing her hair. “You display your grief in front of all the world,” said the olive. “But you know very well that come spring, new leaves and flowers will adorn your branches and it will be as if nothing had happened. But I too loved Solomon. My fruit gives the pure oil illuminating the Temple he built in Jerusalem. Now that he’s gone, I cherish my grief deep inside myself. I’ll keep my leaves; I don’t need to make a show of mourning. I will age and always mourn, yet my heart will stay sound. And my body will produce harvest after harvest of olives, down through time forever, to honor the memory of Solomon.”

Hanukkah is winding down, and maybe you’re tired of fried foods by now. But you can celebrate the last night of the holiday with olive oil all the same — and with cheese, another traditional Hanukkah food. The following recipe can’t be simpler to make, and although it savors of Israel’s Mediterranean terroir, the ingredients are available year around wherever you live.

Feta Cheese Moistened With Spiced Olive Oil 200 grams – 1 cup feta, cut into large chunks
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons dried or fresh thyme, rosemary, basil – any one or a mix
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon fresh mint (or 1 teaspoon dried)
Pinch black pepper
Optional: a pinch of cayenne flakes.

Place cheese in a bowl and pour oil over. Add remaining ingredients and mix gently. Leave at room temperature, covered, for an hour, before serving.

Cook’s notes: This serves 2 an appetizer if served alone; 4 if accompanied by another appetizer. Serve green and black olives next to this cheese, and triangles of warm pita bread.

Substitute any hard, salty white cheese. If there’s any oil left over, add it to your next vinaigrette.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: recipes, israeli recipes, feta

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • For 22 years, Seeds of Peace has fostered dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian teens in an idyllic camp. But with Israel at war in Gaza, this summer was different. http://jd.fo/p57AB
  • J.J. Goldberg doesn't usually respond to his critics. But this time, he just had to make an exception.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.