Olives for a Better World
You are in the beautiful Lower Galilee and feel the need to get out to nature and walk among the lovely, green, oak filled hills… not only that, you want to end this leisurely hike in style. Something different, something interesting, something educational and certainly tasty…
Well, do I have a suggestion for you!
Put on your walking shoes and head to Ha’Movil Junction, near Kibbutz Hannaton, where you will pick up the Israel Trail for 4 mile scenic walk towards the village of Tzippori. At this time of year, the blooming red, white and purple anemones, the wild irises, wild orchids and lupines are spectacular.
As you walk in the Tzippori forest, you will pass a few ancient wine presses along the way. As Christianity spread and Christian pilgrims frequented the Holy Land during the Byzantine times (4th – 7th centuries), the local valleys became dotted with vineyards. The sacramental wine industry flourished and vintners crushed their grapes close to their vineyards, carving wine presses from the ubiquitous limestone bedrock.
When you arrive in the village of Tzippori, you will come upon the grave site of Rabbi Yehudah Nasiah, president of the Sanhedrin in Tzippori from 235 – 265 c.e. His tomb is visited several times a year by believers asking for special favors.
After a short visit to the tomb, one may wish to visit the Church of St. Anne, originally a Byzantine church built on the ruins of an earlier synagogue, destroyed during the Persian invasion of 614 c.e., rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 12th century, destroyed by the Mamluks and finally rebuilt by the Franciscans in 1879. Oh, and did I mention the two Argentinian monks who care for the chapel? Complex, I know, but so is this land.
But I have saved the best for last, because now you will end this wonderful hike with a visit to Rish Lakish, an eco-friendly, organic gem.
Rish Lakish is a family-run olive press, where hand-picked olives are crushed using ancient and modern methods and their delicate oil extracted to make the most delicious olive oils I have ever tasted. The olives are picked from trees, (some dating back 800 – 1000 years!) surrounding the village of Tzippori and they produce a variety of high-quality, cold pressed, kosher and organic olive oils
What is there to learn about olive oil production? Plenty!
In order to improve the quality of the olive fruit, the Ancient Romans used to graft different types of olive branches to create new and better breeds. We still do that today!
Olive trees grow in almost every kind of soil, making them the ideal fruit tree. The only soil they do not like is the swamp!
Suri olives make oil that is good for cooking; Nabali oil is delicious on salads; and the Rish Lakish specialty, rosemary infused olive oil, is absolutely incredible for cooking vegetables.
The Rish Lakish olive press and small cafe are located in an environmentally friendly, ‘green building’, that the Noy Meir family built of bales of hay and adobe mud. The menu includes fresh, organic, vegetarian light meals and mouth watering tastings of their delicious olive oils. One may purchase their olive oils and olive oil products in their small store, as well.
But best of all, the Rish Lakish olive oil press is involved in Olive Oil Without Borders, a three year project implemented by the Near East Foundation and funded by USAID, whose subpartners include the Peres Center for Peace and the Palestinian Center for Agricultural Research and Development. This project aims to strengthen grassroots, cross-border economic cooperation and to promote peace and reconciliation between Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
Dan Shapiro, U.S. Ambassador to Israel, explains the project in this video as he visits Rish Lakish in December of 2012.
Want to learn more?
The Noy Meir family, Rachel, Micha and Ayalah would love to host you at Rish Lakish. Visits can include organized tours of the olive groves, workshops about olive oil production and ‘green building’ and, a favorite of young visitors, olive picking during the harvest season of October/November.