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January 4, 2017

Today we visited an olive oil factory in the northern city of Katzrin. The owner, Avner, shared his story with us. He accidentally stumbled upon a major environmental breakthrough when he realized olive residue and byproducts of oil production could be used for cosmetic and house cleaning purposes instead of being discarded as harmful agents to the environment. He realized this when he felt how soft his skin became after touching the olive oil residue.

The dumping of oil residues had been polluting the water reserves and posing a grave environmental concern as olive oil production byproducts do not dissolve and create a layer of film, blocking water absorption into the ground.

Characteristically Israeli, Avner took this opportunity to transform the entire olive oil production industry. He holds two patents for the original technology used to convert the environmentally harmful black water into distilled vinegar for non toxic household cleaning products as well as utilizing olive residues for hand soaps and natural beauty products. Avner has won numerous awards and worldwide recognition for his innovative entrepreneurship and sustainable environmental reform in the olive oil industry. 

Olive oil production is a major industry throughout the entire Middle East region. The extent of the threat that olive byproducts pose to the health of the environment is exemplified by the fact that many countries in the Middle East have a bureau designated to deal strictly with the issues of olive oil production. Avner has on numerous occasions offered to work with the representatives of these branches of government to try and help them combat these issues and take the initiative that he began in Israel. 

He told us of how he personally called and spoke with these individuals and offered them- free of charge- the opportunity to come visit his factory and learn how to implement the technology in their home countries. He didn’t care that they were representatives of countries such as Saudi Arabia or Jordan, he simply wanted to genuinely help them. Politics, as it should, is not a matter to him when it comes to olives. Like many other Israeli companies, Avner’s factories and stores employ Druze, Arabs, and Palestinians alike. In fact, the manager of Avner’s company is a Palestinian Arab. “Why should it matter where they come from,” Avner expressed, “you want to feed your family, and I want to feed mine; so we work together.”

Sadly the Saudi representatives did not agree. They brought their politics and hate even to the issue of olive oil production.

They could’ve come and taken the opportunity to learn Avner’s technology and continue to sell it to other countries and create a competitive niche market. But instead they would not even consider such an opportunity simply because Avner is an Israeli Jew. They were so blinded by hatred that they could not look past it and realize the opportunity placed before them.

It’s as if someone was very ill and the only person who owned the cure to their illness was their arch nemesis; and when offered the cure free of charge they simply refused it in the name of hate. What could possibly explain such an irrational behavior? Just like this ill person the nations surrounding Israel are so dedicated to their hate that they cannot get past it even for their sole benefit. They are more dedicated to their hate than their own people and the health and lives of those around them.

To me this is the epitome of the entire conflict. Israel offering overly generous deals that they do not directly benefit from monetarily or economically in the interest of recognition, peace, and friendship.

Avner had nothing to personally gain from by providing his unique technology to people who are not exactly friends of Israel. Those countries would be the main beneficiaries along with their people and environment.

Yet the sad reality is that hate has been so ingrained in their hearts they have become too blinded by it to seek countless opportunities for land and self determination that has been put on the table for them.

All they have to do is say the word.

“Yes.”

 But apparently this is asking too much.

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