Meet the Maker: Sindyanna of Galilee

Situated in Nazareth, a home to both a rich history and prolonged violence, is Sindyanna of Galilee: an organization dedicated to Israeli-Arab solidarity and the empowerment of Arab women in Israel.

Their high-quality products, including the extra-virgin olive oil in the Holiday Box: Michelin Edition, are produced by a cooperative of Arab and Israeli farmers who work to provide educational and economic opportunities to marginalized women. CEO Hadas Lahav talks about segregation, hope, and olive oil in an exclusive interview with us here at Try The World.

© Yoram Ron

“I want people to know that in the Middle East there are positive things going on—
not only war, not only terrorism. Also good things. Good olive oil, good food, good tradition
and culture. And good people with good intentions, people who respect
each other and want to live in peace.”

—Hadas Lahav, CEO of Sindyanna of Galilee

Can you describe the bond you forge between Jewish and Arab women in your organization?

Sindyanna is a women-led association which was established in the Galilee about 17 years ago. We try to develop the food production of arab farmers and producers. Jewish and Arab women are working together in order to create the best olive oil and other fair trade products and to invest in the profits of our business in education initatives for Arab women and sustainable agriculture.

We are proud to be part of a time-honored tradition of olive oil production, but we want to combine tradition with modern practices to develop excellent olive cultivation to enable the farmers to offer the best olive oil. We offer Arab women access to economic opportunities, such as education, production, training, and marketing channels, so they can achieve personal growth. Our association is led by Jewish and Arab women that are committed to this message of peace and collaboration.

© Yoram Ron

Why the focus on women specifically?

We concentrate on women because we believe that women are the weakest part of the society, and as long as women have no access to job opportunities and education, they cannot influence society and they cannot have any input on the development of society. We focus on women because we believe that the collaboration of women is very powerful.

What is one of the biggest challenges in helping empower Arab women and creating an Arab-Israeli partnership?

The challenge is becoming bigger and bigger every day because here, every day the tension and violence is going on. Our main challenge is not to let ourselves be influenced by the current situation and to believe that most of the people want to live in peace and to find a good solution to the life in our region. Our main challenge is convincing people that this is possible. Even people who don’t believe in the same solution cannot deny that we are not doing something positive. We only work inside Israel; we don’t work in the occupied territories. We want to put an end to the occupation of the West Bank by the Israeli army. This is a basis on which we can collaborate with the Arabs in Palestine and Israel—the fact that we don’t support the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian state.

© Yoram Ron

Despite these challenges, Sindyanna has been able to help many women in the area. Can you share a success story?

Wadiarra is a place mainly occupied by Arab villages in Israel. In 2010, we planted an organic olive grove in this area which previously was a military zone for many years, and only 10 years ago it was turned back to the farmers to cultivate. They came to us and said they want to make something in their land, and they don’t have the capacity to do it.

We collaborated with the farmers and helped them plant 100 dunams (25 acres) of organic olive groves with modern methods. Israel is one of the most modern states in terms of agriculture, but in Arab states the agriculture is less developed. So we turned these 100 dunams in to the most modern, organic olive grove in the Arab community in Israel. The owners of the land are very proud and other people in the area come to us to ask how to develop their land and use modern methods to get more profit from their land.

I also have a personal story. Mona started to work in our warehouse 7 years ago. She finished high school and started to work in our factory filling bottles with olive oil and wrapping soap, etc. Two years ago, we sent her to a seminar of warehouse managers and she has started college. Now she is responsible for all the work in the warehouse. She has almost doubled her income. She has four children and now she can send them to the university if she wants because her salary allows her to invest in her family and raise the standard of living in her family.

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