There are countless stories in Israel of small-scale businesses that cobble together several undertakings in order to succeed. The Rish Lakish olive oil press, in the village of Zippori in the Lower Galilee, is one of these. At the head of this family-owned business are Micha and Rachelle Noymeir, but their six children played a formative role in the establishment of their olive oil production. Their headquarters, a lovely straw-bale structure, was built by the Noymeir sons.
During harvest time at Rish Lakish, ladders are propped against trees in the olive groves and workers focus on their task (unlike most commercial olive groves, which use mechanical “shakers” to urge the fruits off the trees, at Rish Lakish, all olives are picked by hand). The tiny green-and-purple fruits then go back to the compound, where the olives are quickly shuttled onto a conveyor belt, sorted from leaves and twigs, and dropped into the press, to be pummeled by a set of massive granite stones. Later, the olive mush is centrifugally churned to separate the oil from the dregs. The end product is a beautifully pristine tawny-green oil, rich and flavorful.
While chiefly a producer of organic olive oil, Rish Lakish also sells foodstuffs and olive-oil-based cosmetics, has a fine little café, gives tours of the facility, and invites schoolchildren to visit the olive groves. During harvest time, they hire Israeli, Palestinian, and Thai workers, and host international volunteers who come to work on the farm. The operation is involved in a consortium called Olive Oil Without Borders, a project with a goal to bolster grassroots, cross-border economic cooperation and to promote peace and reconciliation between Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, and Palestinians.