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Arab and Israeli women use creativity to work toward a just peace

Sindyanna of Galilee bridges cultural divides with Fair Trade products

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

Rachel and Myasar work together in Sindyanna, an organization that offers women access to economic opportunities, education, and job training so they can become agents of change in their communities. This program provides jobs to unprivileged women and teaches them crafts to increase their income. (Photo by Oren Shalev)

LOUISVILLE — Working for a just peace in Israel-Palestine can’t be left only to the governments, or even the diplomats. Sindyanna of Galilee, a Presbyterian Mission Agency global partner and grassroots group of Arab and Jewish women, is working together to share its vision of peaceful co-existence in the region.

“Here at Sindyanna we still believe that hope and collaboration defeat racism and hatred,” said Hadas Lahav, Sindyanna’s CEO. “This is why, now more than ever, we are promoting our story of a Fair Trade, women-led organization where Arabs and Jews work together towards economic justice and a better future.”

Created in 1996, Sindyanna of Galilee is the only certified Fair Trade olive oil producer in Israel that operates among the country’s Arab population, providing both functional expertise and a practical approach to build capabilities and deliver impact. The work is focused on bridging cultural divides, encouraging sustainable agriculture and supporting organic farming.

The group’s list of fair-trade products includes organic and extra virgin olive oils, spice mixes, carob syrup, almonds, honey, olive oil soaps, and various traditional handicrafts. Za’atar is a mixture of dried za’atar leaves, sesame seeds, sumac, olive oil and sea salt used for seasoning.

The products create economic opportunities for Arab women and assist local growers and producers.

The female-led nonprofit actively promotes the concepts of “business for peace” and Fair Trade in Israel. They do this by selling Arab producers’ olive oil and other premium products in the international and local marketplace according to Fair Trade principles, and then channeling all of the profits into education for Arab women.

“We’re driven by our strong sense of values every step of the way,” said Lahav. “We strive to proudly execute five pillar principles that are embedded in our culture and form the backbone of our values, our mission and our business approach.

In cooperation with other local organizations, Sindyanna reclaimed abandoned or neglected parcels of land and transformed them into Israel’s first flourishing Jewish-Arab organic and regular olive groves. By combining sustainable cultivation with modern techniques, they produce award-winning olive oils.

Sindyanna children were asked to illustrate ideas of optimism, togetherness and hope. Speaking two different languages, the children created instant bridges between the two cultures. (Photo by Yoram Ron)

But they believe the fruits of the groves is much greater than just good-tasting olive oil. “They are a passion for the environment, and invaluable, trust-building cooperation between local Arabs and Jews,” the group says on its website.

Why olive oil?

“Locally grown, cultivated and cold pressed, the extra-virgin olive oil marketed by Sindyanna of Galilee is part of a time-honored Mediterranean legacy intrinsically linked to the land of Canaan, later known as Israel and Palestine. Olives are the fruits of a land that is sacred to Jews, Christians, and Muslims — the Holy Land (Latin: Terra Sancta; Hebrew: ארץ הקודש Eretz HaQodesh, Arabic: الأرض المقدسة Al-Arḍ Al-Muqaddasah). As such, they are imbued with a unique significance appreciated by millions of people around the world,” the website says.

Sindyanna explains that olives were one of the biblical seven species and a key agricultural product of the land of Israel in ancient days.

“Olive oil has played a pivotal role in people’s daily lives. Its uses range from lighting (feeding clay lamps as well as the Menorah, the seven-branched candelabrum, which illuminated the Temple) to preparing, cooking and baking food; from hygiene (olive oil soaps and beauty care) to healing and medicine; and from religious and sacrificial rituals to anointing kings and priests. The latter is illustrated by the word ‘messiah’ that stems from the Hebrew word ‘mashiakh,’ which literally means a person anointed with oil,” according to Sindyanna.

The group says that the olive tree also symbolizes revival, renewal and new generations, as in Psalm 128: “Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,  who walks in his ways … your children will be like olive shoots around your table.”

Sindyanna exports its fair trade olive oil and other products from its warehouse and factory in Kfar Kana (Cana), about 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) northeast of Nazareth on the road to the Sea of Galilee. The village of Cana is recognized by Christians worldwide as the biblical Cana of Galilee, where according to the Fourth Gospel, Jesus performed his first public miracle — the turning of water into wine at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11), the first among seven miraculous signs.

Some of Sindyanna’s products are available on Amazon USA & Canada. All of the products are available for wholesale by clicking here.


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