Growing peace in the Middle East through olive oil

Ayala Noy Meir’s family owns a small olive press in northern Israel.

Woman pouring olives into presser machine (USAID/Bobby Neptune)
Ayala Noy Meir at her olive press operation in Israel. (USAID/Bobby Neptune)

Khaled Hasan Hussein Yaseen Al-Juneidi is a Palestinian engineer and olive oil expert.

Man checking leaves of olive tree (USAID/Bobby Neptune)
Khaled Hasan Hussein Yaseen Al-Juneidi (USAID/Bobby Neptune)

The two met four years ago through the “Olive Oil Without Borders” project, funded by the U.S. government. Workshops on olive oil production techniques united them. Their shared love for their profession helped them see how much they could learn from each other’s expertise.

Noy Meir says the workshops introduced her to Palestinian farmers and olive oil producers — people whom she had rarely met beforehand.

Together, they have learned about pre-harvesting, parasite control, supplementary irrigation and quality control through olive oil tasting seminars and other activities.

In 2013 the project supported an agreement that allowed Israeli citizens to purchase Palestinian olive oil for the first time in a decade. As a result, Palestinian farmers increased their revenue by $20 million in less than two years.

Woman standing by olive tree (USAID/Bobby Neptune)
Noy Meir says Al-Juneidi gave her a lot of advice on how to make better olive oil. (USAID/Bobby Neptune)

In the past five years, USAID has helped more than 2,600 Israeli and Palestinian growers produce better olive oil through the Without Borders project. Implemented by the Near East Foundation, the initiative unites olive farmers, mill operators and olive oil distributors through workshops that improve their farming skills to increase olive oil production and profits.

This project is one of dozens that are supported through USAID’s Conflict Management and Mitigation program. In many cases, these projects bring Israelis and Palestinians together for the first time.

“The olive branch is a symbol of peace in the world,” Al-Juneidi says. “My wish for this land is an olive peace.”

A longer version of this story is available on USAID’s website.