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An olive branch

刊登日期: 2016.06.11
作者: Grace Tse  

When you have a quarrel with your friend, your teacher might tell you, 

“Can you think of extending an olive branch to your friend?” 

Does your teacher ask you to give a branch of an olive tree to your friend? An olive branch is a symbol of peace. “Extending an olive branch” (伸出橄欖枝;願意講和)does not mean that you are giving out a real olive branch to your friend. Instead, it means that you are making an offer of peace with your friend to end the quarrel. 

The olive tree has been grown in such Mediterranean(地中海)countries as Greece (希臘), Syria(敘利亞)and Egypt(埃及) since a long time ago. The fruit of the tree, the olives, is used for cooking and made into olive oil. 

This idiom is biblical in origin. In the Old Testament(《舊約》), God found that the people on earth had become very bad. God was so sad that he wanted to destroy the wicked world with a great flood. Noah(諾厄)was the only one who loved God. So God wanted to save him and told him to make an ark or a big boat for his family and the animals. The rain came for forty days and nights. Noah sent a dove out to see whether the floods had stopped or not. The dove later brought an olive branch to Noah to indicate that the floods had gone and God was not angry anymore. 

While this idiom came from the story of Noah, olive branches were also used as symbols of peace in the customs of Ancient Greece before the biblical time. This symbolism continues in works of art in Western culture such as murals and paintings. The Great Seal of the United States(美國國璽), which is used to authenticate official documents, also shows an olive branch. On one side of the seal, an eagle holds an olive branch in its right talon and its head turns toward the olive branch. This symbolises that the United States has a strong preference for peace. 

Since many countries in the world are still at war, let us hope that they will offer each other an olive branch to stop the war(化干戈為玉帛)

 

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