Africa / Middle East

A Harvest for Peace in Israel

Sindyanna of Galilee promotes collaboration between Arabs and Jews to develop the fair trade olive sector.

Photo: Yoram Ron
Nov. 10, 2016
By Alexis Kerner
Photo: Yoram Ron

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Sindyanna of Galilee brings Arab-Pales­tin­ian and Jew­ish women together to pro­duce fair trade prod­ucts such as their Za’atar olive oil, almonds and soaps. Hadas Lahav told Olive Oil Times the sales aim to strengthen the Arab-Pales­tin­ian econ­omy and fund edu­ca­tional pro­grams.

The non-profit, run by all women, pro­motes busi­ness for peace” as well as fair trade in Israel. The team has already worked to trans­form large swaths of uncul­ti­vated land into flour­ish­ing olive groves. This has helped to fur­ther develop the olive indus­try among Arab farm­ers by assist­ing them in mod­ern­iz­ing their land with sus­tain­able cul­ti­va­tion meth­ods and advanced tech­niques and irri­ga­tion.

Around the same time as the fall olive har­vest Jews cel­e­brate Sukkot, a fes­tiv­ity that com­mem­o­rates the season´s har­vest and those who reap it. The Sindyanna team was prepar­ing to host an activ­ity dur­ing the hol­i­day that would bring vol­un­teers from all over Israel together.

This year the event took place in the Scot­tish Grove that has been devel­oped through a part­ner­ship with the landown­ers (the Abu Hatum fam­ily from Yafi’a) and the Church of Scot­land. Vol­un­teers not only were pick­ing olives, they were help­ing to carry out a study.

The vari­eties har­vested dur­ing the event were planted as test plots by the Agri­cul­tural Research Orga­ni­za­tion at the Vol­cani Cen­ter. Yair Manni, an engi­neer from the Fruit Tree Sci­ences Depart­ment at ARO, is direct­ing the work.


Manni explained, some of the trees were planted in this grove to inves­ti­gate how the par­tic­u­lar species behave in terms of yield and oil con­tent in that spe­cific geo­graphic area and under con­ven­tional agri­cul­tural con­di­tions.” He went on to describe one plot where they had planted a vari­ety that had already been patented called Kadis­hon. This vari­ety has espe­cially large fruit and is suit­able for eat­ing.”

The vari­eties were har­vested sep­a­rately so that experts could study the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of each vari­ety once their oil had been extracted at the Al-Sahel olive press in Dir Hana.

Yoram Ron

Tamar Belkin, a high-tech mar­ket­ing expert from Tel Aviv and a long­time friend of Sindyanna of Galilee par­tic­i­pated in this year´s har­vest along with 50 other vol­un­teers. She sum­ma­rized her expe­ri­ence in the event:

For the sec­ond year in a row, my 10-year-old son and I par­tic­i­pated in the annual Sindyanna of Galilee vol­un­teer har­vest. Last year it was held at the Oasis Olive Grove that is located in Wadi Ara, and this year at the Scot­tish Grove near Nazareth.

The day started early with friends of Sindyanna — chil­dren, par­ents and grand­par­ents — dri­ving in from all over Israel. We laid out nets under the trees, took up our rakes and started har­vest­ing in the clear Galilean air. After a few hours of hard work with our pleas­ant co-work­ers, we ate a lovely home­made lunch and even got the chance to pickle a batch of olives that we could take home with us.

With Arab and Jew­ish vol­un­teers work­ing together to pick fresh olives from the over­flow­ing trees under a beau­ti­ful blue sky it was a unique expe­ri­ence for us — both as city folks doing phys­i­cal work out in the coun­try­side and, more impor­tantly, as Jews labor­ing side by side with our Arab neigh­bors. Unfor­tu­nately, most chil­dren these days, even more so than their par­ents, don’t typ­i­cally get much expo­sure to either so it was espe­cially impor­tant to me that my son par­tic­i­pate.

While we were both exhausted at the end of the day, we both found our expe­ri­ence very enjoy­able and ful­fill­ing, and already look for­ward to next year’s har­vest.”

Sindyanna has been in the Israeli mar­kets for decades but has finally made its way this year to the shelves of Amer­i­can mar­kets.

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