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Land of Olives & Vines

Olive trees and vineyards are distinctive features of the Palestinian cultural landscape. Olive trees are more common in the central and northern districts, while vineyards are a dominant feature in southern districts, especially in the Hebron and Bethlehem hills. Stone terraces and watch towers are two of the main distinctive features associated with the olives and viticulture in Palestine. In the terracing system in Palestine retained walls are built from rough fieldstones to make use of the mountain terrain, retain moisture and prevent soil from eroding. However, the watch towers spread all over the country. They were important seasonal agricultural installations used to guard the fields and crops. The terraces, the watch towers, the vineyard, and the olive trees are living testimonies of the mutual relationship between the Palestinian farmer and his land.

Olive trees and vineyards are distinctive features of the Palestinian cultural landscape. Olive trees are a dominant feature in the northern and middle of the central mountain region of Palestine, while vineyards are confined to the southern parts of the central mountain regions.

Palestine is described as the Land of Olives and Vines. The olive tree is an indigenous tree in the Mediterranean zone. Olive was domesticated during the Chalcolithic period and the history of olive oil production can be traced back to more than 5000 years based on results of excavations in Palestine. The process of producing oil consists of three stages: crushing the flesh of the olives, pressing the pulp to extract the oil and separating the oil. Olive was crushed by a large stone. The pulp material was then placed in baskets and pressed to extract oil. Then oil is collected. The beam and weight press is known from the Iron Age and examples are known from numerous sites in Palestine. During the Hellenistic and Roman period the rotary olive crusher was used. Oil was a main source of food in Palestine. The surplus oil was used for trade. Palestine was a major centre for olive oil production, testified by the great number of presses cut in the rock from Roman times. The olive tree continues as an integral part of the Palestinian rural economy, associated with a wide range of economic and social activities. This traditional practice is, however, now clearly under pressure from socio-economic and politico-military forces.

The earliest cultivation of the grape vine (Vitis vinifera) in Palestine dates back to Chalcolithic and Early Bronze periods. The process of cultivation and production of wine was depicted on ancient paintings and reliefs. The grapes were brought from the vineyard to the wine press normally on a flat rock. The grapes were spread out on the rock surface and trodden, so that the juice flowed through channels to a collecting basin hewn in the rock. Grapes were one of the main fruits in the past. The importance of vineyards in the Palestinian economy is attested in archaeological contexts in the Bronze Age and Roman-Byzantine periods. Hundreds of wine presses were found all over the country. Vineyards and wine were depicted on many mosaic pavements from the Roman and Byzantine periods.

Olive trees and vineyards are distinctive features of the Palestinian cultural landscape. Olive trees are more common in the central and northern districts, while vineyards are a dominant feature in southern districts, especially in the Hebron and Bethlehem hills. Stone terraces and watch towers are two of the main distinctive features associated with the olive and viticulture in Palestine. In the terracing system in Palestine retained walls are built from rough fieldstones to make use of the mountain terrain, retain moisture and prevent soil from eroding. However, the watch towers spread all over the country. They were important seasonal agricultural installations used to guard the fields and crops. The terraces, the watch towers, the vineyard, and the olive trees are living testimonies of the mutual relationship between the Palestinian farmer and his land.