I took the Overseas Adventure Travel trip, Israel: The Holy Land and Time less Cultures as part of a 45-day sojourn in the Middle East. OAT specializes in family visits and meeting locals as part of each itinerary. On this trip in particular, the locals we met and the meals we had with them were not only truly authentic, but in many cases, superior beyond measure. This was especially true of the olive farm we visited north of Haifa and south of Galilee, at the moshav (settlement) Zippori, or Tzippori in Hebrew (about 45 minutes outside of Haifa).
The small private home we visited one rainy afternoon seemed to be an endless path of plants, tress, benches and woven baskets, until we found the little house which doubled as a café, restaurant, and olive press. Of course, olive oil was for sale as well.
This local olive farm is so unassuming, they don’t advertise, don’t have much of a website, and I had to ask privately their name which they wrote down for me on a scrap of paper. But their olive press business Rish Lakish is known around olive oil circles in Israel and has even been written about in local Israeli newspapers. They are a family business, and they hire local Arab and Palestinian neighbors to help them with their business. One of the daughters in the family who spoke to us about high quality olive oil, Ayala, is a judge on international panels for olive oil competitions. They also partner with Arabs and Palestinians in the area for the sale of olive oil.
After getting over how charming the locale was in spite of the rain and having observed the straw outhouse, we heard quite a bit about olive production. They family owns professional quality olive presses in a room adjacent to where we ate, but they showed us what early olive presses looked like – mere baskets. We learned how to determine which olive oil is best to purchase, since there is a lot of fraud with big companies selling poor quality olive oil. We learned that olive oil has five enemies: light (only purchase in dark glass bottles); plastic (never purchase in plastic bottles); heat (keep it stored in a cool dry place), sediment, and time (use in under 2 years from time of purchase to preserve the quality).
The sensational vegetarian meal we ate after the presentation was cooked with some of the finest olive oil in the world, and in a locale where some of the oldest olive trees in the world resides; some were hundreds of years old. What oil from that farm and of that high quality does to food is unbelievable!
I use olive oil and olive brine in a lot of my cooking and eating, and it’s made a huge difference in my health as well as the flavor of the food, so I was especially interested in the excellent presentation and the terrific vegetarian lunch that followed. Although the bottles of olive oil they sold were not practical for me to purchase because of their size and the weight they would have added to my luggage, I gained knowledge. I will never again purchase inexpensive olive oil.
The olive branch is a symbol of peace, and so it is on this endeavor as well. The Palestinians have an abundance olive trees, and the Israelis have an abundance of both knowledge and technology for olive pressing using modern methods. Olive Oil Without Borders was started in that part of Israel to bring both sides together in a way that’s mutually beneficial – and hopefully the continuation of a desire for peace in the region. This little olive farm is part of that project.