In the town of Kufr Kana, in the region of Galilee in northern Israel, farmers are producing something greater than organic olive oil: a peaceful coexistence between two communities.
Established in 1996 as a nonprofit “business for peace,” Sindyanna of Galilee uniquely bridges a culture divide between Jews and Arabs living in Israel. The only certified fair trade olive oil producer in Israel, Sindyanna operates among the country’s Arab farmers, ensuring these workers receive a fair price for their crops and channel profits back to their communities.
In 2015, Sindyanna’s Organic Olive Oil was awarded the Extra Gold Medal at Italy’s BIOL, an international competition celebrating the world’s best olive oils. And while they’ve won many prestigious awards for their olive oils, Sindyanna is quick to highlight its greatest prize: supporting opportunities for coexistence few would have imagined possible.
It’s a rare business model in Israel—one that’s working to overcome decades, if not centuries, of cultural conflict.
A History of Difference
Since the formation of the State of Israel in 1949, Arabs have maintained a minority status in the population. Today, Arabs make up 20% of the population of Israel, but they also make up the majority of its poorest citizens.
Interactions between the two cultures are surprisingly rare. Not only do Arabs and Jews tend to live in different communities, but they attend different schools, and their political leaders rarely work together. This lack of interaction has only served to exacerbate tensions, which have waxed and waned both socially and politically over the last 68 years.
What these two cultures do share in common, however, is a commitment to the Holy Land. Since ancient times, olives, in particular, have been a key agricultural product of the sacred region, playing a pivotal role in all facets of daily living, from lighting and cooking to hygiene and religious ritual.
Beginning from this place of commonalty, Sindyanna has begun to dissolve years of conflict and work toward a different society, one where Jews and Arabs live and work together as equals.
Sindyanna’s mission has also sought social change through education and training.
Farmers are taught to develop uncultivated lands into traditional and organic olive groves using environmentally responsible practices, both traditional and modern. In addition, farmers are educated on the best cultivars of olives to plant for the highest yields and best market outcomes.
Sindyanna is also committed to improving the status of Arab women. Today the nonprofit is led by women, and more than 60% of its workers are women. Beyond guaranteeing fair pay, benefits, and safe working conditions, Sindyanna trains Arab women in all areas of business, from farming and production to marketing and distribution. The goal is for these women to achieve personal growth and become agents of change in their communities.
A Serrv partner since 2003, Sindyanna’s product line has grown to include fair trade spices and soaps, which are distributed globally. As a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, the company is careful to select partners that are likewise committed to fair trade practices and improving the lives of their workers.
Good for the body and the soul, Sindyanna’s cold-pressed olive oil is packed with more than delicious flavor. Each bottle exemplifies the ideal that a peaceful, equitable coexistence in the Middle East might not be so implausible after all.