NO, not that black liquid that now sells for over $100 per barrel and which has been fruitlessly drilled for in many regions of our small country. I write of the oil produced and used by our forefathers - olive oil. We learn from the Talmud and the Mishnah that the olive, both fruit and oil, provided an important part of the diet in days of yore. Traces of its production throughout the centuries have been unearthed; as early as the 4th millennium B.C. small villages in the Golan and Samaria hills existed on herd growing and agriculture, part of which was the growth of olive trees. The popularity of olive oil and the advances in international food marketing olive oil have become big business and Israel is one of the world leaders in the production of fine and flavorful oil.
Ex Colonel Avner Talmon has lost none of the determination and dynamism that took him up in the ranks and the thriving olive oil production and marketing center that he has established in Katzrin pays homage to this. The attractive and spacious stone building - Beit HaBad - that houses both the olive oil distillery and the cosmetics production laboratory of Capernaum Vista Olive Farms, provides a fascinating insight into the diversity of the olive. Beit HaBad opened just two years ago and it is here that the oils from a variety of olives from trees growing on the scenic and historically rich slopes of the lower Golan are produced.
Proud of the fact that the oils are maintained bacteria free and the method of production used is also eco-friendly, visitors are taken to inspect the shining stainless steel vats and learn about the stages of oil extraction and how the remains of the olive provide material for further use. Three types of oil are produced from the olives; early - pressed from green olives - is richly flavorful and a favorite for daily use by the local market; late - from fully ripened olives - this oil is paler, aromatic and known as “polite European”. The third variety is an oil from the pitted olive which has been turned into an Israeli culinary speciality; the press used for this was imported from Italy and refined by Avner’s team and the oil has a longer shelf life than the previous two categories.
Talmon was determined to put to further use the waste material that remained after the extraction of oil and decided to enter the field of natural skin products which are becoming popular and widely used by “green” members of modern society. With the advice and medical input of Dr. Gregori Pipco, who is in charge of quality control and whose belief it is that “apply to your skin only that which can be swallowed”, the farm laboratory began to produce a variety of skin care products. The leaves of the trees, the oil itself and production process residuals were used in developing the products for both the face and the body. These aromatic and attractively packaged items that grace the shelves of the well-stocked shop are interesting, reasonably priced and tempting to try. Realizing that the striking interior of Beit HaBad had even more potential Talmon turned space on the upper floor into a restaurant with a varied kosher menu and encourages the use of the building for happenings and special occasions.
Modern Katzrin is now over thirty years old and a visit there presents both past and present in one of Israel’s most beautiful settings. Archeological remains of an ancient synagogue and living accommodation of other times remind the visitor that this was the Jewish homeland. Modernity provides a Visitor’s Center round the corner from which is a pub that brews its own Israeli beer. It is another of my favorite destinations with visitors both from home and abroad.