In the spirit of New Year’s, I wanted to share with you a couple of initiatives currently underway in Greece that exemplifies renewal and hope.
There are multiple infrastructure projects constantly in the works in Greece. Greeks revere their history, recognizing their unique responsibility to humankind. Therefore, they actively seek to preserve their heritage for future generations. One infrastructure project currently underway includes the upgrading of a high-speed rail line connecting the cities of Athens and Patras in the Peloponnese. The project required the clearing of a large olive grove. More than 600 olives trees, many of which were more than 150 years old, needed to be removed to make way for the new rail tracks.
The olive tree is sacred to Greeks. Since ancient times it has been revered for all that it offers. The fruit of the tree has many uses, but most notably for creating what many consider liquid gold: olive oil.
So revered was the olive tree to Greeks that myth credits it as Athens namesake. The myth states that when the ancient gods were vying to be the patron god of the city, it was the goddess Athena who offered the ancient Athenians the olive tree as a gift. The ancients were so impressed with the gifts that the olive tree provided they thanked the goddess by naming their city after her.
The olive tree to this day is beloved by Greeks and can be found everywhere. Every house in the countryside has an olive tree in its yard. It provides income to families who cultivate the fruit into olive oil, soap and hand lotion. If you get a chance to drive through the beautiful countryside of Greece, you will see endless stretches of olive groves glistening in the sun. Even the busy streets of Athens are lined with olive trees providing much-needed shade from the hot sun.
The olive tree has stood resolute in daily life, offering sustenance and symbolizing hope and peace. It is due to this love and respect that Greeks have for the tree, that the decision was made to save the railway trees and replant them in other locations. The locations chosen were two: the town of Mati in Attica and the Holocaust Museum of Greece in Thessaloniki.
The town of Mati was devastated by horrible fires last summer that left 200 people dead and hundreds homeless. While the scars of the fire are still raw, the 400+ olive trees that will be transplanted throughout the town will symbolize hope for the future and help nature regenerate.
The Holocaust Museum of Greece is scheduled to be completed by 2020. The museum’s mission will be twofold; to commemorate the Greek Jewish community and to become a human rights education & research center. The museum will be surrounded by an extensive garden where more than 200 olives trees from the rail project will be transplanted, offering its visitors a place to peacefully contemplate the museum’s mission.
As a result of these two initiatives, over 600 olive trees will find a new home. More importantly, as it has for centuries, the humble olive tree will continue being a symbol of peace, unity, and hope.
As we begin the new year, wishing all of you the same!
be bold, be hopeful, be Tolmee