State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Women-Led Non-Profit is Leading the Way for Arab-Israeli Coexistence

In August 2017, nine Columbia University students traveled to Jordan and Israel to learn about how the two countries are cooperating on environmental issues and managing shared natural resources. This is one in a series of posts about the trip.

On our second day in Israel, we traveled to Kfar Kanna, an Arab town in the Northern part of Israel, to meet the women-led nonprofit organization, Sindyanna of Galilee. Led by Arab and Jewish women, the group has banded together to grow and sell fair-trade olive oil and other products. Their profits go toward educating and empowering Arab women.

Sample Appetizers (Real Carob Syrup, Honey, Tahini)
Sample Appetizers (Real Carob Syrup, Honey, Tahini)

As we arrived at Sidyanna of Galilee, the visitors center welcomed us with delicious homemade appetizers of three kinds of halva made with different olive oils, tahini, real carob syrup, local olive oil, and za’atar along with flatbread to dip in. After enjoying the appetizers, we watched a short video explaining the work of the organization. Sindyanna was established in 1994 as an organization to empower Arab and Jewish women by creating an income option for them and bridging coexistence between the two cultures.

Their story was very compelling. Why did the organization think of olive oil production? They saw that the majority of Arab families relied on olive oil production. Thus they started reclaiming unused, poor lands and transformed them into flourishing olive groves. By doing so, they wanted to support and continue the Arab culture of farming. How did they find common ground between the two cultures? By showing that both communities want the same outcome, and through collaboration, they can achieve great things while also creating a way for peace. The organization was able to do this by combining the Arab agriculture with the Israeli market.

Introduction to Sindyanna of Galilee
Introduction to Sindyanna of Galilee

Nadia and her colleague, both Palestinian-Israeli women, answered our questions about how the community responded to the mission of the organization. Sindyanna is an excellent example of empowering women and their role in the community. Arab women coming to work there initially had biases and fears because they didn’t know how to speak Hebrew and didn’t know if their Jewish colleagues would interact with them. But as they started, they were proven wrong, and they moved past their biases and were able to go back home and change the perceptions in their neighborhood. The women started feeling empowered and proud that now they were active members of the family, providing financial support.

My time at Sindyanna visiting center was a remarkable experience, starting with the introduction to the olive oil tasting and finishing with a fantastic homemade dinner. I saw that Sindyanna is the perfect example for mediating peace in the region, by creating a solution to the conflict through developing an economic opportunity with Arab-Jewish cooperation. Social change starts from the bottom. 

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If you are curious to taste the delicious olive oil produced in the region, you can go to the nearest Whole Foods Market and purchase a bottle.

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