Please join us on Thursday, November 30th for an extremely timely live webinar about Palestinian olive oil and Medjool dates from the West Bank.
Many of you have purchased our Organic Olive Oil from small farmers in the West Bank for years. Did you ever wonder exactly how the oil and dates get from the farmers to Equal Exchange? Come to this webinar to learn more about our organizational partner, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC), and learn how these farmers are faring at this tragic and dangerous moment in the Middle East.
The olive harvest is just concluding as this announcement goes out, so we’ll have updates for you. At the very end of the webinar, for those interested, we’ll have a short demonstration on how to do an olive oil tasting. We hope you’ll join us.
Palestinian Olive Oil & Medjool Dates
from PARC, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee
Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil
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Case of five 17.6oz boxes Shop now
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The Shahin family sits happily in a circle in their home, located in the Shuja’iyya neighborhood east of Gaza City. The house is warm and lively, and the smell of the meal inside the oven fills the whole room. Everyone can barely contain their excitement at tasting the season’s new olive oil. On the menu is musakhan, a traditional Palestinian dish utilizing the freshly harvested olive oil to make a layered dish of taboon bread, onions cooked in copious olive oil and sumac, and often topped with chicken.
Widely regarded as the most blessed time of the year, Palestinian families in Gaza wait all year for the olive harvest season. Starting in October, families prepare harvest tools, mats, plastic rolls, high ladders, and pails, venturing out in the early morning to visit their lands, finally able to pick the olives after an entire year tending to the trees.
Everyone in the Shahin family participates in the harvest, considered the most important season of the year. They spend weeks on end together, enjoying the olives, and the resulting fresh and thick green oil, as an accompaniment to their meals. “When I dip the first piece of bread into the oil we made, I feel all the effort we put into harvesting melting away,” Amr Shahin, 13, says from his family farm.
He is part of a group of teenagers participating in the harvest. As they continue to pick up olives from the ground, Hassan, 12, points his finger to his cousin Mahmoud, a year older.
“Take Mahmoud for instance,” says Hassan. “If he doesn’t have olive oil for a week, he will die!” They all snicker, coming down from their ladders to participate in the interview.
The olives go through a short process to be ready for consumption, either as pickled olives or as fresh-pressed oil. The family all joins together under the tree to carry out a designated task within the division of labor necessary for olive picking.
Picking as a family tradition
The Shahin family owns eleven acres of land, home to three hundred olive trees. They work daily, from afternoon to sunset, taking advantage of the presence of the young boys after they get off from school to climb up the tall ladders and pick the olives from the top of the trees.
Their mothers wait for them to get back from school. They have their lunch at home quickly, then get to work. Mothers sit under the tree while the boys are up on the ladders, picking the olives and letting them fall down amid their mothers and sisters, who pick it up and separate the olives, dividing the green and black olives into separate bags. After harvesting, the olives are taken home in plastic bags. The family sells a few bags to their neighbors when they get back home.
The fastest way to prepare the olives for eating is to smash them with the flat side of a rock, without breaking the pits. Then the olives are mixed with salt and red pepper, and stored in containers for a week. After the curing period, the olives are ready.
And when the family judges the quantity it harvests to be enough, they send it over for pressing.
Olives into oil
Extracting the oil from the olives is a long process, entailing taking the olives through several stages in the ancient olive press factories in the Gaza Strip.
Located among the farms east of al-Shuja’iyya, the Kishko Olive Press receives hundreds of people, who bring olives from their land in plump bags.
“This year the olive harvest is good, and when trees hold an extra amount of olives, the oil extracted becomes less than usual,” Salah Kishko, the owner of the press, tells Mondoweiss.
According to Kishko, this year a gallon of olive oil — containing sixteen liters — would require over 150 kg worth of olives. During the previous season, it would only require 120 kg. The amount varies each year, says Kishko, depending on the season’s prevailing climate. The amount of olives that his press goes through daily numbers over three hundred tons, which explains the good season.
The first step of this process is dumping the olives into a steam machine, in which the olives are moved through a tiny steel conveyor belt to be cleaned as the steam drags the tree leaves and other impurities.
The olives are cleaned and washed by water, and then transferred to another machine for mashing. The olives then are pressed, turning the olive into wet mush.
This renders the green olives soft and ready for oil extraction. At the end of the machine, two young boys received the olive paste mixed with the pits on a canvas, who transfer it to the pressure machine.
Dozens of burlap sacks loaded with the smashed olives are lined up between the jaws of the press. The pressing continues for over an hour, during which time the pure oil leaks into a metal basin and then into a filter tube. When the pressing ends, the cores remain inside the ceramic circles, while the pure oil goes to purification.
In the last stage of this process, the pressed oil is fed into the purification machine, splitting the unclear oil into a long pipe, while the clear oil is refined by water. The pipe carrying the oil has two faucets, one for impurities, and the other for the clear olive oil.
At this stage, people fill the fresh oil into gallon containers and take them home, to distribute among their family members or take to market to sell.
This season, the price of a 16-liter tank is 450 NIS (about $127 USD).
The oil is now ready, not only for consumption in the typical seasonal meals, but also for daily use, like in manakish za’atar pastries, musakhan, or just on the side, dipped with bread.
From farm to table
The olives and the olive oil are essential components of any Palestinian table. Palestinians in Gaza believe that as long as a family has olive oil at home, they will never go hungry.
Another important part of the season, especially for those who buy oil on the market, is the search for the best olive oil. If you have a neighbor who owns land with olive trees, you would usually ask them to keep you a tank — usually enough to last a family for a year.
And as the new oil flows in, people start to find ways to use up the leftover oil for last year. Weeks before the harvest season, most families start to use up their stores, using the old oil in several cooked meals.
Samera Al-Astal, 52, lights her traditional handmade clay oven to bake bread. Her daughter, Nidaa, prepares the bread dough in between mixing olive oil with zaatar — a blend of sumac, sesame, salt, and Palestinian thyme.
The rest of the family helps out, preparing one of the best breakfasts you can have — zaatar manakeesh with fresh olive oil. The smaller children are already seated, anxiously anticipating the food.
The wild thyme and oil mixture is spread across the flattened dough, which is then placed in the oven for fifteen minutes, until it comes out bubbling and green.
“Oil, olives, and thyme have been produced by this land for thousands of years,” says Samera. “Palestinians understood their land and used its bounties for their survival.”
And they continue to use it to this day.
Nidaa, Samera’s daughter, is 28 years old and has a family of her own. She happily prepares Friday lunch for them, which usually includes chicken or meat. With the olive season, most families tend to make Musakhan, which as a dish makes heavy use of olive oil.
Nidaa’s family gathers ahead of lunch, while she prepares the meal.
Musakhan, perhaps the quintessential Palestinian dish, consists mainly of chicken, onions, and Taboon bread. A kind of rough flatbread, the “taboon” loaf is derived from the traditional oven of the same name, when the dough is laid over hot rocks inside the taboon, leading to the flatbread’s characteristic dimples and uneven pockets — ideal for catching and soaking up the season’s olive oil.
After the bread is made, Nidaa chops up a hefty amount of onions, and mixes them with a large quantity of olive oil and sumac. Marinated chicken bakes in the oven, with the oil and onions underneath it, catching the chicken juices that mix with the copious amounts of oil.
Once the chicken is cooked and the oil-and-onion mixture underneath is tender, it’s time for assembly.
The taboon bread is covered — in fact, soaked — with the onion, sumac, and olive oil. Once they’re all assembled, the flatbreads are layered on top of each other, and then finally topped with the roasted chicken. When they pick up the bread, it is dripping in oil.
After a heavy lunch, dinner is comparatively light, but no less replete with the season’s olive oil. Nidaa’s family gets ready for dinner at a leisurely pace, cutting vegetables for a light salad — fattoush.
It is a favorite meal for the elderly in Palestine, as it is soft and smooth. Small diced pieces of crisped bread are added to oven-roasted eggplants, fresh tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, and green pepper, seasoned with salt and dressed generously in olive oil.
This meal can be head for breakfast or dinner, and is served alongside the prepared olives.
The Palestinian relationship with olive trees has been millenia in the making. Palestinians in Gaza consider the olive as their symbol and their most prized property.
Reflecting on how vital olive trees are for Palestinian survival, Amr Shahin said: “When we feel hungry, we eat the olive. When we get tired, we rest in the shade under the trees. And when we are cold in winter, we use the wood for warmth.”
Tareq S. Hajjaj Tareq S. Hajjaj is the Mondoweiss Gaza Correspondent, and a member of Palestinian Writers Union. He studied English Literature at Al-Azhar university in Gaza. He started his career in journalism in 2015 working as news writer/translator at the local newspaper Donia al-Watan. He has reported for Elbadi, Middle East Eye, and Al Monitor. Follow him on Twitter at @Tareqshajjaj.
Palestine Partners will have beautifully hand-embroidered tote bags, pouches, purses, scarves, and pillow covers, and handmade earrings, necklaces and other crafts from the Women in Hebron Fair Trade Cooperative, all celebrating Palestine.
Playgrounds for Palestine will have Kufiyas, the beautiful traditional scarves of Palestine made by Palestine’s last surviving factory in Al Khalil, Hebron; Fair Trade Olive Oil from small farms in Palestine, Olive Oil Soap, and Zataar spice.
Plus Madison’s Knitting for Peace will offer beautifully hand-knit hats and other treasures made by women from Iraq and Syria who have resettled in Madison.
Stand with Palestine Yard Signs will also be available for purchase.
Hosted by Palestine Partners and Playgrounds for Palestine, with special guests from Knitting for Peace.
Celebrate Summertime! Please come out and support Palestinian artisans, farmers, and their communities as they continue to struggle against the health and economic impacts of COVID and increasing settler aggression throughout the West Bank.
Our online store, Madison-Rafah Marketplace, has added crafts to our olive oil sales. We offer ceramics, embroidery, jewelry, kufiyas, woodcrafts, and calendars.
For the month of November make this your one-stop shopping for holiday gift giving. Spend your money on products that support your values. Give gifts that give twice, once to the producer and once to your recipient.
Since 2004 the Madison-Rafah Crafts Committee has worked with fair trade organizations in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to purchase mostly traditional crafts. We buy them at fair trade prices, helping the artists support their families and the economy of Palestine.
We hope you will be able to participate in this annual event. As always, thank you for your support.
The sale will be during the month of November. Make this your one stop shop for all your holiday gift giving. Spend your money on products that support your values; give gifts that give twice, once to the producer and once to the recipient.
MRSCP will be participating in the virtual sale via our online store, Madison-Rafah Marketplace. We will carry most of our usual items.
(The store is currently up and running for olive oil sales; our complete product listings will be available when the Festival opens.)
Note: MRSCP CANNOT ship or deliver any purchases; they need to be picked up. You will receive instructions and a pickup window following your purchase. In hardship cases, we may be able to provide delivery.
We hope you will be able to participate in this annual event, and as always, thanks for your support.
In keeping with the times, we are now offering Palestinian Olive Oil and Donation and Membership services at the Madison-Rafah Marketplace, a secure online store. A new link has been added to the header menu above. Crafts may be available at the Marketplace in the future.
The Marketplace is currently offering Holy Land Olive Oil in 500 and 750-ml bottles, with discounts for cases of six. It is an extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil imported directly from Palestinian growers.
Buyers in Madison have been impressed with the oil’s quality and flavor. The oil has a brilliant green color and freshness that you can taste: nutty with a little sharpness or bite, particularly in the finish, that is typical of fresh oil.
This oil comes from West Bank villages in the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a certified fair trade organization. The oil from the 2018/19 harvest had a peroxide value of 7, an acidity of 0.37%, and a pleasant fruity flavor characteristic of fresh ripe olives. It was mellow, not bitter or peppery, and pleasantly aromatic.
Palestinian farmers are having great difficulty selling their produce due to Israeli policies of occupation and closure. Neither Jordan nor Israel, the two natural markets, will accept the oil which is now the only source of income for many people.
The Madison-Rafah Marketplace is a secure site hosted by Square that meets the Payment Card Industry security standards.
• Pickup only — We cannot ship or deliver items.
• We’ll contact you by email to schedule your pickup day and time.
• Questions? Contact veena.brekke at gmail.com or (608) 332-8745.
• We cannot accept returns on any items.
201 State Street
10 am – 5 pm
Join MRSCP and many other Madison sister cities, businesses, and organizations at the annual celebration of the rich cultural heritage in our community. Come and enjoy the free performances, plus food and crafts from all over the world!
MRSCP and Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison will be selling fair trade Palestinian items from Gaza and the West Bank, including:
Photos: Jim Maas/FUS Social Justice Ministry, Tsela Barr/MRSCP, and Kit Kittredge/NA Boat to Gaza Campaign
Since 2008, the Freedom Flotilla movement has sent 35 ships attempting to break Israel’s illegal, US-backed military blockade that has devastated Gaza and denied 2 million people — half of them children — access to food, clean water, fuel, medicine, employment, and basic human dignity for 13 years.
On Wednesday and Thursday, July 24 and 25, the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project (MRSCP) welcomes the Gaza Freedom Flotilla’s North American Boat to Gaza campaign with two days of activities.
Wednesday, July 24: Gaza Freedom Flotilla on Lake Mendota!
On Wednesday evening a pontoon on Lake Mendota at the Union Terrace and The Edgewater will give visibility to the crisis in Gaza. We will also be leafleting the crowd on shore. (Anyone interested in helping with this should email rafahsistercity at yahoo.com)
Thursday, July 25: Dessert and a Conversation
Former flotilla participants Kathy Kelly (Voices for Creative Non-Violence) and Kit Kittredge (NA Boat to Gaza Campaign) will talk about Gaza, the importance of the flotilla, and plans for the next international sailing in 2020 — James Reeb Unitarian Congregation, 2146 E. Johnson Street, Madison at 7 pm.
This free event will feature a display of Gaza children’s artwork as well as refreshments & dessert including baklawa. Donations to benefit the Flotilla and a new Maia Project clean water system for kids in Rafah will be appreciated.
For more information, contact MRSCP at rafahsistercity at yahoo.com, and follow madisonrafah.org or the Facebook event.
Welcomed by WORT RADIO. Kit Kittredge and Kathy Kelly, fresh from the Freedom Flotilla’s activities in Chicago, will be interviewed live on WORT’s A Public Affair by host Allen Ruff from noon-1 pm on Thursday, July 25. Kathy Kelly will also be a guest on The Morning Buzz with Jan Miyasaki between 8 and 8:30 am on Wednesday, July 24. Tune in at 89.9 FM or listen live online.
If you can’t attend but would like to support either the Flotilla or the Maia Project, you can still donate:
Flotilla Make a donation online, or send a check payable to Nonviolence International with the memo “2020 US Boat to Gaza” to:
4000 Albermarle Street, NW, Suite 401
Washington D.C. 20016
Maia Project Online donations here, or save the online fee and send a check payable to MRSCP with the memo “water” to:
P.O. Box 5214
Madison, WI 53705
Both MRSCP and Nonviolence International are 501(c)(3) organizations.
Once again Overture celebrates the rich cultural heritage within our community with more than 30 FREE performances by artists who call Dane County home. Indulge in cuisines from around the world, browse stunning arts and crafts available for purchase and learn about the many local businesses with global connections.
Be sure to check out MRSCP and Playgrounds for Palestine’s table where you can buy delicious Palestinian olive oil, zaatar, and olive tapenade as well as our fantastic assortment of embroidery, wood products, olive oil soap, earrings, keffiyehs and more. Hope to see you there!
Join us for the 2019 tribute to Rachel Corrie with Ahmed Abu Artema Writer, refugee and peace activist from Rafah
First Unitarian Society
900 University Bay Drive
2:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Ahmed Abu Artema wrote a Facebook post on January 7, 2018 from his home in Rafah, Gaza that echoed an idea that has reverberated throughout Palestinian history: What would happen if Palestinians marched nonviolently and in large numbers towards the boundary fence with Israel to demand respect for their rights and call attention to the Israeli-imposed blockade that has created hardship for millions of people for more than a decade?
On March 30, 2018, the #GreatMarchofReturn became a reality, grabbing headlines around the world. Ahmed Abu Artema will share his experience with the Great March of Return, his views on the future of nonviolent actions in Palestine, and his vision for a just and lasting peace. He will be joined by fellow Gaza native Jehad Abusalim, Chicago-based scholar and program associate for the American Friends Service Committee’s Gaza Unlocked campaign.
Free and open to the public. Refreshments and desserts including baklawa will be served. Palestinian olive oil, olive oil soap, crafts, and food items will be for sale. Please join us as we honor Rachel Corrie and welcome Ahmed Abu Artema to Madison.
Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee, First Unitarian Social Justice Ministry, and Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.
Co-sponsors: American Friends Service Committee-Madison; Amnesty International Group 139; Bright Stars of Bethlehem-Madison; Colombia Support Network; East Timor Action Network-Madison; Interfaith Peace Working Group; James Reeb Peace, Justice and Sustainability Group; Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison; Madison Friends Meeting (Quakers); Pax Christi-Madison; Playgrounds for Palestine-Madison; UNA-USA Dane County; Wisconsin Network for Peace, Justice and Sustainability: and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom-Madison.
Ahmed Abu Artema is a 34-year-old Palestinian journalist, poet and peace activist. He is the author of the book “Organized Chaos” and his writings have been published in the New York Times, 972 Magazine, The Nation, Common Dreams and Mondoweiss. One of the founders of the Great March of Return, he has been interviewed by NPR, Middle East Eye, Al Jazeera, and CNN. His family was forced from Al Ramla village in Palestine in 1948 and he was born and grew up as a refugee in Rafah Camp in the Gaza strip, unable to even visit his ancestral home in what is now Israel. He lives in Gaza with his wife and four children. He is on a speaking tour of the U.S. during March 2019 at the invitation of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
The last weeks have been busy and challenging in the South Hebron Hills. Young Palestinians, with international and Israeli peace activists, have planted hundreds of trees. But this is also a difficult time. Soldiers and settlers have repeatedly forced shepherds off of Palestinian grazing land located near settlements and outposts, settlers have harassed schoolchildren and shepherds, and just last night Settlers uprooted more than 20 young olive trees.
The creativity, resilience and commitment to nonviolent resistance is more amazing here each year.
Here are a few recent events and photos.
On the night of February 4 Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on uprooted 23 olive trees on Palestinian land near Tuwani in Humra Valley. The trees have were recently planted during a nonviolent demonstration of Palestinians and Israeli and International activists.
On January 23 Israeli army and civil authorities used a bulldozer to destroy an agricultural field in the Palestinian village of Khalaya Al-Moghrabi. The farmer was already unable to work his land because Israeli authorities had confiscated his tractor.
The Palestinian road to Jinbah and the villages of Massafer Yatta
On January 31 the Israeli army used a bulldozer to destroy two sections of the road that connects the city of Yatta to Jimba village and the other villages of Massafer Yatta, making access to school, health care, commerce and other services even more difficult for the families living in the villages located inside the area claimed by Israel as Firing Zone 918.
School in Khallet Athaba
On January 30 The Israeli Civil Administration (DCO) issued demolition orders for the school and two private family houses in the Palestinian village of Khallet Athaba and a stop work order for a house in the village of Tuba.
Palestinian child from Tuba
Israeli authorities delivered a stop work order for the home of this child’s family in the village of Tuba. It is impossible for families to get building permits. And stop work orders are often followed by demolition orders.