Shimon Lavee's Great Legacy

Lavee helped plant and cultivate countless olive trees throughout the world for more than four decades. His important contributions and generous spirit will live on in their roots and branches for generations to come.

Shimon Lavee
By Alexis Kerner
May. 2, 2016 15:24 UTC
Shimon Lavee

In the Jewish teach­ings (the Midrash) it says, Let no one ever cease from plant­ing. Fields filled with trees greeted us at birth, and we should add to their num­ber even in old age.”

Shimon Lavee, who peace­fully passed away on April 24th helped plant and cul­ti­vate count­less olive trees through­out the world for more than four decades. His impor­tant con­tri­bu­tions and gen­er­ous spirit will live on in their roots and branches for gen­er­a­tions to come.

The olive trees dress in black, Shimon Lavee, Emirate Professor from the University of Jerusalem and great friend of Spain has left us.- Spanish Association for the Olive Municipalities (AEMO)

Prof. Shimon Lavee was born in 1931 in Berlin and immi­grated to Israel in 1938, just before the begin­ning of World War II. In his new home­land, he flour­ished. Lavee was one of the estab­lish­ers of the Kibbutz Tel Katzir, located in the South of the Sea of Galilee, and served as the com­mu­ni­ty’s farm man­ager. By 1955, he had received his MSc degree at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and began a researcher posi­tion at the Agricultural Research Organization (Volcani Institute). Just five years later, he com­pleted his PhD.

Shimon Lavee at a Terra Olivo event, Jerusalem, 2011

Lavee went on to estab­lish a breed­ing pro­gram at the Volcani Institute. It is dur­ing his years at the insti­tute that he dis­cov­ered how to reduce the juve­nile phase of the olive by accel­er­at­ing the breed­ing process, helped to rev­o­lu­tion­ized drip irri­ga­tion, and devel­oped new olive vari­eties like the well-known Barnea.”

The Barnea vari­ety has become increas­ingly impor­tant glob­ally due to its abil­ity to adapt to inten­sive cul­ti­va­tion while pro­duc­ing four times aver­age yields and main­tain­ing qual­ity oils.

His influ­ence did not stop at the bor­der of Israel. Lavee played impor­tant roles over the years for the International Olive Council, includ­ing serv­ing as its pres­i­dent (2000, 2008). He was also instru­men­tally active in the International Society of Horticultural Sciences. Furthermore, he received awards and was an elected mem­ber of many inter­na­tional orga­ni­za­tions. In Spain, Shimon was given the Honorary Award for Olive Research, in Italy he was elected as a mem­ber of the Italian Academy for Olive, and in Israel he received the Best Breeders Award from the Ministry of Agriculture.

Prof. Lavee receiving a medal of appreciation from Facundo Vita Serman, a representative of the ISHS, on his duty as co-convener of the International Symposium on Olive Irrigation and Oil Quality, Nazareth, Israel, 2009

Lavee was a phil­an­thropist. His extra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tions with the USAID-sup­ported and Near East Foundation-run Olive Oil Without Borders project led to him receive a cer­tifi­cate of appre­ci­a­tion. He believed that equal­ity was the true path to peace. The project works to build eco­nomic coop­er­a­tion between Palestinian and Israeli farm­ers.

When Olive Oil Times began to ask inter­na­tional friends and col­leagues to com­ment on Lavee´s life, it became even more evi­dent that he was not only a highly esteemed olive expert, but he also served as a world men­tor, inspired oth­ers, and was an excep­tional olive oil taster.
See Also:Meeting Up with Shimon Lavee, and The One About the Holy Tree
Everyone could agree that he was a hum­ble, gen­er­ous, friend. He knew how to bring peo­ple of all walks of life together through learn­ing about olive trees and olive oil.

Dan Flynn, from the UC Davis Olive Center, remem­bered when Shimon was in California and told the audi­ence that Israel and California rev­o­lu­tion­ized the world olive indus­try decades ago, with the intro­duc­tion of irri­ga­tion. Irrigated groves yield far more than dry-farmed olives. Shimon had con­tin­ued that great bond between Israel, California, and olives.”

The Spanish Association for the Olive Municipalities (AEMO) wrote upon his pass­ing, the olive trees dress in black, Shimon Lavee, Emirate Professor from the University of Jerusalem and great friend of Spain has left us.”

Ehud Soriano, head of the Israeli Olive Oil Panel and olive con­sul­tant, was work­ing to sched­ule the Sensorial Analysis course in Israel. When he met Lavee, he told him about the course. The pro­fes­sor told him he would be happy to teach classes. Ehud was taken aback that such a dis­tin­guished man would be will­ing to take time to teach for his course. He remem­bers Shimon laugh­ing, and say­ing, teach­ing pro­duc­ers and farm­ers is not less impor­tant than stu­dents of the University.” It was then when Ehud saw the mod­est and gen­er­ous char­ac­ter of Lavee.

Arnon Dag from the Gilat Research Center recounts meet­ing Shimon 13 years ago at the Volcani Institute. He described Lavee as a hum­ble per­son with enor­mous knowl­edge in olive phys­i­ol­ogy and his men­tor. Dag loved their dis­cus­sions on the sci­ence of olive biol­ogy and on the best ways to ben­e­fit grow­ers.

Even after he fell ill,” Arnon explained, Shimon insisted on being involved in stud­ies and con­tin­ued to go out to the field. Unfortunately, we do not have any more pro­fes­sors that are going out to the field with prun­ing shears.” He con­tin­ued, I feel lucky that I had the oppor­tu­nity to work so closely with this man for so many years. My col­leagues and I are com­mit­ted to do our best to con­tinue Shimon Lavee’s legacy and main­tain Israel as a pro­duc­tive and cre­ative cen­ter for olive sci­ence research and devel­op­ment.”

The branch of an olive tree rep­re­sents peace, the tree itself is gen­er­ous and can flour­ish even under harsh con­di­tions, its fruit pro­vides oil that gives light and is a sym­bol of wis­dom. All of this, Shimon Lavee also dis­played through­out his life.


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