A chance at peace - meet Hadas Lahav of Sindyanna olive oil
“I was born in a Kibbutz with a very nice community around me,” recalls Lahav. “They always talk about how they live in an equal society, and respect everyone no matter their religion or race; these were the principles that I was raised on.”
Her perspective shifted on March 19th, 1976, when the Arab community in Israel declared a general strike to protest against the confiscation of land from Arab farmers.
“The treatment was so unfair that they decided to protest, and I just remember that I was so shocked like, ‘What happened? This is a country that I love, how come?’”
Lahav couldn’t fathom living in Israel without being a part of a movement that championed equality, respect, and peace.
“I am privileged, I was born on the right side of the demographic map,” she says. “But I think it was very, very difficult to live in Israel without taking part in a project like Sindyanna; I want to feel that I am at least trying to do something to change the reality.”
After graduating from Tel Aviv University, Lahav wanted to pursue a career in social activism and started Mother’s School in 1995, a project that taught Arab women maths, reading, writing, and languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and English, tools that would allow mothers to receive an education and better help their children with school.
However, what women wanted was to be employed and earn a salary, so Lahav started Sindyanna of Galilee. Since 1996, Sindyanna has been the only certified fair-trade, organic olive oil producer in Israel. Operating in the Galilee region with the Arab community, Sindyanna bridges cultural differences and encourages sustainable and organic agricultural business practices.
“You are not alone, we live in one world.”
“During the pandemic, I think many people realized how important it is to show solidarity, to help each other, to care about other people,” she says. Even before the pandemic, surrounding communities responded positively to their business.
“We are very popular among people that appreciate us because they know what we are doing and because our project is based on optimism on one end, and solidarity on the other.”
For instance, Lahav says that Sindyanna’s position in the local community has allowed women to leave their conventional roles.
“They had to receive permission or encouragement from families because most of them are mothers of children,” she says. “We have an employee with 7 children. She couldn’t leave her house without the encouragement from her family, so I guess that for the communities that we are working with, our very existence is something that matters.”
Furthermore, Lahav believes that due to the separate Jewish and Arab educational systems in Israel, there is a sense of separation amongst the various communities geographically, linguistically, or culturally.
“The communication between the two was never there. If you go outside, you never see children communicate, or it is very difficult for them to communicate,” Lahav says. “So you still feel that you are living in a world apart.”
Thus having an institution like Sindyanna encourages coexistence. “We show that bringing the two sides together, not only strengthens our society by bringing humanitarian and necessary values but also create different models to take inspiration from.”