`Making Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily’s Tree of Peace - Olive Oil Times

Making Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Sicily’s Tree of Peace

By Ylenia Granitto
Dec. 11, 2023 17:56 UTC

The har­vest was car­ried out at the Olive Tree of Peace in Palermo, Sicily, a few weeks after the regional super­in­ten­dent declared it a cul­tural inter­est site.

A trib­ute to judge and pros­e­cut­ing mag­is­trate Paolo Borsellino, who is con­sid­ered one of the most impor­tant per­son­al­i­ties in the fight against orga­nized crime in Italy and inter­na­tion­ally, the tree stands as a sym­bol of regen­er­a­tion, sol­i­dar­ity, peace, civil com­mit­ment and jus­tice.

This tree has gained an ever-increas­ing social impor­tance, which is why we have com­mit­ted our­selves to pro­tect­ing it with the insti­tu­tions,” Francesca Grasta, co-founder of the Paolo and Rita Borsellino Study Center, told Olive Oil Times.

See Also:An Olive Tree Garden of Peace is Innagurated on Crete

Some years ago, we started col­lect­ing the olives, which were processed for table con­sump­tion and given away to the com­mu­nity,” she added. This is the sec­ond year that we pro­duce extra vir­gin olive oil that is donated as well. Indeed, the Olive Tree of Peace belongs to the com­mu­nity.”


The Olive Tree of Peace was planted on the spot of anti-mafia prosecutor Paolo Borsellino’s 1992 assassination. (Photo: Paolo and Rita Borsellino Study Center)

Borsellino was included in Time Magazine’s 2006 list of heroes together with his col­league and close friend Giovanni Falcone. They worked together in the fight for jus­tice and were both assas­si­nated a few months apart in mafia ter­ror­ist attacks.

The judge was killed on July 19, 1992, by a car bomb in Via D’Amelio, Palermo, near the house of his mother, Maria Pia Lepanto, along with the five secu­rity guards, Agostino Catalano, Walter Eddie Cosina, Emanuela Loi, Claudio Traina and Vincenzo Fabio Li Muli. They were all awarded a gold medal for civil valor.

The idea of plant­ing the olive tree was born from a desire of Pia,” Grasta said. In the fol­low­ing months, there was a pos­si­bil­ity to set a com­mem­o­ra­tive mon­u­ment on the site of the attack, but dur­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with her daugh­ter Rita, Pia con­fided to her that she wanted to reclaim that tragic event through some­thing that rep­re­sents life, there­fore a tree, and specif­i­cally an olive tree for its mean­ing of peace.”


Harvest at the Olive Tree of Peace in Palermo (Photo: Paolo and Rita Borsellino Study Center)

She really wanted that spot to become a place of life and peace,” she added. Rita added that it would have been even more sig­nif­i­cant if it came from Bethlehem.”

The pro­posal to plant the tree was launched along with a peti­tion to gather sig­na­tures. As many as 20,000 sig­na­tures from Italy and abroad reached Palermo quickly, and the pro­ce­dure started.

The non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion International Cooperation South South (CISS) helped estab­lish the first con­tacts, then the Palestinian and Israeli Women in Black Peace Movement sup­ported the orga­ni­za­tion and made arrange­ments with the Salesian com­mu­nity of the Cremisan val­ley in Bethlehem – the plant came from the lands of the monastery, where the Italian monks pro­duce olive oil from ancient olive trees since the 1800s.

One year later, dur­ing a cer­e­mony for the first anniver­sary of the event, the chasm caused by the explo­sion was filled with earth, and the Olive Tree of Peace was planted.

The seedling arrived by plane, and for secu­rity rea­sons, it was not even pos­si­ble to keep the clod of soil around the roots,” Grasta said. To be truth­ful, it looked so frag­ile that nobody thought it could sur­vive nor thrive amid city build­ings.”

Yet, today, it is beau­ti­ful and flour­ish­ing,” she added. Many events of high social value are held under its branches through­out the year, includ­ing activ­i­ties with stu­dents com­ing from all over Italy and abroad who the study cen­ter reg­u­larly hosts.”


Each autumn a local cooperative harvests and mills the olives before donating the resulting olive oil back to the community. (Photo: Paolo and Rita Borsellino Study Center)

The olive har­vest has become a heart­felt event. The fruits are care­fully picked by hand and deliv­ered to a mill in Corleone that employs work­ers of the coop­er­a­tive Lavoro e non solo, which man­ages lands con­fis­cated from the mafia.

The coop­er­a­tive helps us dur­ing the har­vest, which is also attended by those engaged in civil ser­vice at the study cen­ter and sev­eral other groups of vol­un­teers,” Grasta said. Emanuele Filiberto, one of Borsellino’s secu­rity guards who was not on duty that day, par­tic­i­pates every year.”

The days of the anniver­sary of the attack are the cul­mi­na­tion of the annual activ­i­ties,” she added. We spend the night in prayer, and in the morn­ing, with the chil­dren from the sub­urbs of Palermo, we color the street, enliven­ing it with dances around the tree, music and the­ater activ­i­ties.”

With its atmos­phere of enthu­si­asm and col­lab­o­ra­tion, the har­vest is yet another great com­mu­nity event that helps us ful­fill Pia’s wish that this may be a place of life,” Grasta con­cluded.


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