Did you know that Palestinian farmers have been cultivating their lands for thousands of years and continue to do so, despite the challenges of farming under illegal occupation?
Whether it’s peppery olive oil, fudgy Medjoul dates, sweet crunchy almonds, zesty za’atar, smoky freekeh or nutty maftoul, these aren’t passing food trends, but time honoured traditions. And Zaytoun are dedicated to bringing you the very best from Palestine’s fertile groves and fields, all while helping you cultivate solidarity and support from across the globe.
Who are Zaytoun?
Zaytoun is a social enterprise inspired by a love of Palestinian culture, communities and cuisine. They exist to support Palestinian farmers through fair trade rather than aid, with 100% of profits reinvested towards delivering this mission.
Zaytoun sell premium quality products that are ethically sourced, sustainably grown and sourced from farmers in Palestine who the team visit regularly. In doing so, they support Palestinian farming communities facing the challenges of illegal Israeli occupation and settlement through trade. Their products are harvested and prepared by hand; a testament both to the proud heritage and culinary traditions of the Palestinian people, and the exceptional quality of Palestinian produce.
Zaytoun was launched in 2004 in response to drastic Israeli restrictions on Palestinian rights to travel, trade and access their lands and livelihoods. On their return from Palestine, they bought 200 bottles of olive oil, inviting friends and family to buy a case. The idea spread quickly among Palestinian solidarity networks, highlighting the need for something tangible and sustained to support Palestinians, that both supported existing activism and reached beyond it. A simple purchase forged a direct connection to Palestinian farming communities; supporting their livelihoods while carrying a larger message in a bottle – the story of the people of Palestine, their love for their lands and the rich heritage they carry and are happy to share with us.
We are still bowled over by the tastes and flavour of Palestinian food, and the expertise of the farming communities who, year after year, share their harvests with us. Their love of good food and the way it has of bringing people together, inspires and delights us as much as ever.
After starting with olive oil, Zaytoun now sell several products grown by different farming communities in Palestine. These products are also now widely available from high street shops, from delicatessens to Fairtrade stores and wholefood retailers. Their team has grown, alongside a growing board with a wealth of experience and backgrounds in social enterprise, Fairtrade and Palestinian solidarity.
They are proud to work with a number of Palestinian suppliers, with whom they have longstanding relationships built up over regular visits to farms, factories and facilities. Some of these include:
Canaan Fair Trade
Canaan works with over 2000 artisan family farms spanned across 52 different villages to sustainably source olive oil, almonds, freekeh and maftoul amongst other products. Based in Jenin, northern Palestine, Zaytoun have been working with Canaan since 2006.
Nablus Soap Company
Zaytoun’s olive oil soaps are made by The Nablus Soap Company which was founded in 1971 by the Tbeleh family who have been making soap for over 400 years.
Nakheel Palestine is a regional leader in growing, packing, and exporting the finest quality Palestinian Medjoul dates. The company, previously named MADICO, grew out of a strong commitment to invest in the Palestinian agricultural sector, to protect Palestinian land and introduce high-quality Palestinian products into local and international markets. They have been suppling Zaytoun with Medjoul dates from Jericho since 2011.
Palestine Fair Trade Association
The Palestine Fair Trade Association (PFTA) is the largest fair trade producers union in Palestine, with over 1400 small-scale Palestinian farmers joined in fair trade collectives and cooperatives across the country. Their cooperatives supply Zaytoun, via Canaan Fair Trade, and Zaytoun support their Trees for Life tree planting scheme.
Palestine Gardens supplies Zaytoun with succulent Medjoul dates from growers in the Jordan Valley. Its aim is to increase the share of Palestinian agricultural product in global markets. Zaytoun have been working with Palestine Gardens since 2013.
Sindyanlna, which supplies Zaytoun’s zesty za’atar, works with Palestinian producers living in Israel, who face discrimination and unequal access to resources.
West Bank Salt Company
Zaytoun also coordinate visits to Palestine, celebrating the rich cultural and culinary heritage while offering insight into the social and cultural landscape. It also gives people the chance to meet some of the producer communities who supply their products, from Nablus soap-makers to olive farmers in Jenin.
Accommodation is usually in local hotels or with farmers’ families. Visitors have the opportunity to witness first-hand the daily difficulties of life under occupation, yet also participate in the richness of Palestinian lives which transcend victimhood and political strife. Expereinces can include helping bring home the valuable olive harvest while offering support and solidarity, or touring the kitchens and markets of Palestine to understand more about the food culture
Amid my frantic life, cluttered with unimportant niggles, I felt humbled by the slow, quiet way in which our Palestinian friends get on with ordinary life, resist the occupation and remain defiant.
Ways to show support
There are several ways to get involved and show support from afar, including:
Buy from Zaytoun, supporting producers and spreading the word to your community. You can also encourage your local shops and cafes to stock Zaytoun products, which are available from a number of wholesalers. If you run a shop or small business, you can also become a stockist yourself.
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Cook Palestinian food
Why not invite your friends over and cook them a Palestinian meal? If you’re not sure what to cook, check out Zaytoun’s recipes, buy a Palestinian cookbook, and follow Zaytoun on social media for more inspiration.
Plant a tree
Olive trees are a vital source of income for small-scale farmers in the West Bank. Planting trees through the Palestine Fair Trade Association offers an opportunity to take positive action, as well as being a thoughtful gift for seasonal and religious celebrations.
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