Meshek Achiya – the Achiya Farm in southern Samaria, one of the largest olive-oil plants in Israel – will receive the Jerusalem Conference Award for Jewish Labor at the 6th Jerusalem Conference this week.
The Jerusalem Conference is taking place from Monday evening, Jan. 26 through Wednesday, Jan. 28 at the Regency Hotel in Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood. The annual Conference hosts key figures and policy makers from Israel and around the world to address Israel's national priorities, social values, and aspirations. This year's Conference will focus on the "New Leadership and New Direction" that will emerge this year in Israel and the United States following their national elections.
Achiya raises olives on some 500 dunams (125 acres) in and around Achiya, a Jewish town just northeast of Shilo and Shvut Rachel. The workers are ideologically motivated to build up a Jewish business on Jewish land. “They come from the hilltops around here,” says Giora Gez, agricultural manager of the farm, “as well from the nearby communities. They all have a sense of mission, and you can see the true happiness with which they work.”
The actual olive harvesting is the most difficult and most labor-intensive aspect of the industry, Gez is seen saying on a Hebrew-language video to be shown at the Conference. “A good team of seven workers can harvest and gather the fruits of ten dunams, or 300 trees, each day. Our goal is to reach 200 liters (211 quarts) per dunam, and we are very close.”
One of the biggest problems is Israel's worsening water shortage, and the necessary water-supply quotas are particularly stringent in Judea and Samaria. Achiya has therefore begun to plant grape orchards. “Olive trees take about 300-400 cubic meters of water a year,” Gez notes, “while grapes take about a third of that.”
“Our larger-picture goal is to plant and work more and more state-owned lands,” Gez says. “As is known, the towns here are largely choked off from growth, and agriculture is our best way of growing outward. We continue forward, despite the hostility and vandalism attempts by our Arab neighbors.”