Al-Badawi Tree: One of the Worlds Oldest Olive Tree - PaliRoots

Al-Badawi Tree: One of the Worlds Oldest Olive Tree

The Arabic word ‘badawi’ directly translates to the English word ‘nomad’.  Nomads are known to be those who roam with no permanent abode. Thus, it is with great irony that one of the oldest standing trees in the world, is named Al-Badawi tree. This tree has been recorded to inhabit some of the most historic acres of soil in the village of Al-Walaja within the Bethlehem district of Palestine. It is believed to be over 4,000 years old according to the Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture, as well as experts alike. This ancient olive tree was famously named in memory of Ahmad Al-Badawi, a wise villager who lived in Al-Walaja over 200 years ago. He had often been found sitting underneath this tree for countless hours reflecting on life. It is said that the olives from Al-Badawi tree are unlike any other olives out there, generally growing very large in size and producing amongst the finest of olive oil in the world. The tree is approximately 12 meters (39 feet) in height, 25 meters (82 feet) in diameter and is compared to that of 10 average-sized olive trees put together.

Closer look at the trunk of the tree

Prior to 1948, many banquets in Al-Walaja were often organized in the tranquility found underneath the shade of this tree, where food was prepared for distribution to the poor. Al-Walaja is a remarkable village located near the green line, south of Jerusalem, with an approximate population of 2,000 inhabitants. Rich in agriculture, it has been recognized for it’s 27 springs and is often termed “The most beautiful village in Palestine”. According to the Palestine Exploration Fund Survey of Western Palestine, in 1833, the village was said to be “good-sized” and built entirely of stone. Though, the village has since lost approximately 70% of its land after the Arab-Israeli war. Scarcity in water, lack of sewerage systems and an outdated electric network are amongst a few of the countless struggles faced amongst the residents of Al-Walaja, today.

Amidst the unambiguous political and economic instability of the region, olive tree harvest season remains one of the most significant seasons to the community of Al-Walaja, and Palestinian people as a whole. It generates nearly a quarter of Palestine’s agricultural output alone, as almost half of the farmed land is planted with olive trees. It is currently that time of year again as farmers are anxiously preparing for the ambitious olive harvest season, just as they have for thousands of years. During mid-October to early November, the rain starts to sprinkle over the beautiful mountains of Palestine. Families come together in joy to collect millions of olives from the ground, which soon thereafter arrive at the olive oil mill. This season is said to be one of little sleep as the labor-intensive process is entirely determined by thousands of Palestinian families tirelessly gathering for days on end. Throughout all of the hard work this month entails, families are also recurrently subjected to violent harassment and theft by settlers while simply attempting to harvest the trees on their own land.

Source: The Gaurdian

Olive trees embody the symbol of Palestinian life, history, heritage, and identity. They are particularly unique to other trees, as they are able to self-pollinate, and live off of little to no water. Exemplifying the resilience of the Palestinian people, olive trees not only signify one of the largest economic foundations for Palestinian communities, but also one of their largest symbols of sanctity and hope. The happiness you see in a Palestinian’s eyes while discussing their olive tree reflects the love and pride they have for their land. Just as Palestinian farmer and appointed protector of Al-Badawi tree, Salah Abu Ali, sits at the heart of his tree, he peacefully chants for the people of Palestine, “We will stay steadfast. We will stay steadfast.” He recognizes Al-Badawi tree as a Palestinian treasure, for its emblematic resilience to exist amidst all of the struggle surrounding it.