If you try to buy at least one item from Israel each time you are in the supermarket, an excellent purchase is Bnei Darom green or black olives. The olives are exported to Australia and elsewhere by Bnei Darom, a religious moshav not far from the southern port of Ashdod.
Every place in Israel has a history and Bnei Darom is no exception.
South of Bnei Darom in what is now Gaza, Kfar Darom was founded in 1930 on 250 dunams of land purchased by Tuvia Miller for a fruit orchard on the site of an ancient Jewish settlement of the same name mentioned in the Talmud. In 1946, Miller sold his land to the JNF and a community was established by Hapoel HaMizrachi’s kibbutz movement as part of the 11 points in the Negev settlement plan.
In the summer of 1948, Kfar Darom was abandoned following a prolonged siege by the Egyptian army during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. A book “The 222 Days of Kfar Darom”, which details the heroism of Kfar Darom, was published in 2007 by military historian Aryeh Yitzhaki of Efrat. Originally in Hebrew, it was recently translated into English. For eight and a half months, several dozen young men and women, under almost complete siege and suffering from terrible hunger and thirst, faced the local Arab enemy and the invading Egyptian army. Most of the defenders were religious kibbutzniks, reinforced by Palmah fighters.
Some of those who were forced out of Kibbutz Kfar Darom then established Bnei Darom in its current location near Ashdod. Currently about 400 people live on Bnei Darom and it is thriving.
Meanwhile, following Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War and its subsequent occupation of the Gaza Strip, a Nahal military outpost was established at the original Kfar Darom site in 1970. In 1989, this was converted to a civilian community by the Israeli government Prior to the withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, there were about 60 families, totaling about 330 people, who earned their living particularly from agriculture, and a central packing center for the world renowned insect-free vegetables produced by the Gaza Jewish communities. Kfar Darom became a symbolic last stand by the Israeli settlers and their supporters in August 2005. Many settlers from Gush Katif, as well as other supporters from the rest of Israel and abroad, mostly religious youth, concentrated themselves in the synagogue. After a bitter struggle,the people were removed by Israeli soldiers. Following the eviction and Israeli withdrawal, Palestinians razed the synagogue. Many of the Kfar Darom people have since struggled to reestablish themselves, with inadequate support.
Location of Bnei Darom:
To get to Bnei Darom: Near Ashdod on Route 41, just east of Route 4. Entrance to Bnei Darom on side of Route 41.
At Moshav Bnei Darom, a communal agricultural settlement of the National Religious Movement, the olive industry is booming. Most of the olives are harvested from trees grown south of the moshav in the desert and irrigated with 10,000 year old underground well-water. The oil, however, is cold pressed at Bnei Darom. Visitors to the olive press learn about the qualities, history and properties of the olive fruit, as well as how to identify real olive oil.
Olive Tour – A Bnei Darom highlight
A tour includes the visitors’ center, with a film of how olive oil is produced, and a visit to a modern olive-oil factory. Afterward, people are given an opportunity to produce their own olive oil with a reconstructed ancient press. There are also tractor rides and arts and crafts projects during Chanukah.
Kad Bnei Darom is a family operation on the moshav. It is the only Israeli mill to produce olive oil using the Italian Rappanelli Sinolea olive oil extraction process. In addition to olives, the company makes canned cucumbers, peppers and egg plant
During Chanukah each year, Bnei Darom hosts an Olive Festival — an original way to mark the Festival of Lights. During the Festival, participants learn how to differentiate between real and fake olive oil, learn about olive oil’s health properties and history, and taste different varieties of olive oil.
The many and varied uses of Olives:
*Besides the olive branch being the symbol of peace, olive is one of the seven species of the Land of Israel. Since ancient times, Jews in different cultures have used olive oil for medicinal purposes. Folklore relates that the Rambam drank a glass of olive oil each morning.
* Indian Jews smeared babies with olive oil before bathing the child to strengthen skin and bones.
* Syrian Jews recommended that pregnant women drink olive oil for good luck.
* Tunisian and Algerian Jews used olive oil for massage and prevention of back ache.
* Morrocan Jews recommended olive oil to ease joint pains. Coughing babies were given a mixture of olive oil and honey.
* Iraqi Jews believed that a daily tablespoon of olive oil prevented headaches, loss of appetite, sleeplessness, and digestive ailments.
* Yemenite Jews rubbed olive oil on the head to prevent hair loss and dandruff. A daily spoonful prevented the flu.
* Ashkenazi Jews dripped warmed olive oil into aching ears.
SO next time you are shopping, have a look for Bnei Darom olives!!