The Olive Leaf as a Symbol of Peace

The Torah’s description of the flood states (Breisheet 7:23): “And He destroyed every living substance which was on the face of the ground…” After the flood, (Breisheet 8:9) Noach sent a dove to see if the waters had abated from the face of the ground. However, the dove returned since the waters had not yet abated. In Breisheet 8:10-11 we read: “And he waited yet another seven days; and again he set forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came into him in the evening; and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off : so Noach knew that the waters were abated from off the earth”.

In Breisheet Rabba, 22:6, the question is asked: If God had already destroyed every living substance, aside from those who were on the ark, then where did the dove find a tree to pluck off a branch?

Rabbi Aba Bar Kahana answers: From the trees of the Land of Israel. Rabbi Levi adds from the trees of the mountain of oil, Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem. The rains of the flood did not fall on the Land of Israel and therefore the trees remained intact. Although the rains did not fall directly on the Land of Israel, the Land of Israel was still covered with water. There was no destruction the way that there was outside of Israel, however they still had to wait for the water to subside.

The olive leaf is a universal symbol of peace which originated in the account of Noach and the Dove and was later adapted by other cultures. The dove traveled all of the way from Mt. Ararat (Armenia) to the Land of Israel because true peace originated there. The Land of Israel was the only Land which was not destroyed in the flood, despite all odds and should not be destroyed or split up today to appease our enemies.

The Mt. of Olives in the eastern region of Jerusalem is the oldest cemetery still in use anywhere in the world. Jews have been buried on the Mt. of Olives for over 2,000 years. True peace can only come by holding on to such holy sites and not by forfeiting them.