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The olive branch is a branch of an olive tree. In Western culture, derived from the customs of Ancient Greece, it symbolizes peace or goodwill. The original link between olive branches and peace is unknown. Some explanations center on that olive trees take a very long time to bear fruit. Thus the cultivation of olives is generally impossible in times of war.

The olive branch.

Jewish

From the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, a white dove carrying an olive branch is a sign of peace. After the Great Flood, to find land, Noah released a dove. The dove came back carrying an olive leaf in its beak (Noach 8:11), which informed Noah that God had taken mercy on humanity and caused the flood to recede:

And the dove came to him in the evening; and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off: so Noah knew that the waters were abated from off the earth.

God then caused a rainbow to appear in the sky as a symbol of his covenant with mankind never to destroy the earth by water again.

This story has led to the dove and the olive branch (combined with the classical tradition) to become symbols of peace. The rainbow may also represent peace, whereby God directs His "bow" toward Himself, an ancient symbol of a cessation of hostilities. The motif can also represent "hope for peace" or a peace offering from one man to another, as in the phrase "extend an olive branch."

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