Wow, today we got off to a great start! After having a delicious breakfast of some Shakshouka that was actually pretty spicy for Israel, we headed to the factory of Savta Gamila. Savta Gamila was born in Pki’in to a very poor Druze family who had lived in the same religious village for over 300 years. On her way to school she walked barefoot every day. Due to their lack of money they had no doctors or hospital treatment nearby. Her mom however, was an expert in cleansing. She treated those around her from plants and herbs found in nature. Savta Gamila called them “natural antibiotics.”
After the number of civilian casualties that resulted from the War of Liberation Savta Gamila realized that the knowledge she had learned from her mom could become extinct. “We needed to keep it.” Thus, Savta Gamila’s idea for creating soap was born. She felt this was the best way of getting the treatment of herbs into the skin. She told herself that no matter what she would succeed in her goals.
It was hard because surrounding her in her village were unsupportive people. She said if she were to succeed people would try to block you from succeeding. But she said that if you don’t succeed people would tell her she is stupid.
Well Savta Gamila, you have sure succeeded. And you are certainly not stupid. Today her products are sold to only the best boutiques in the world. She believes in the value of her products and she put her entire life into them. You can find a bar of her soap for example at Harrod’s in London for around 45 pounds (equivalent to about $80.00).
Though she isn’t a doctor, many doctors have still recommended her products. She feels that “plants are the strongest thing in the world. They can kill humans, or they can heal them.” Over the years she would experiment on herself, her children, the elderly, and at different cosmetic places. When her sons were in the army she would give them as much soap as they could carry to bring back to their units and get the soldiers opinions.
In her products she uses olive oil, almonds, grape oil, avocado, shea butter, bay leaf oil, and other things found in nature. It took Savta more than 40 years to create the best soaps and skin products. During these past 3 or 4 years she has really found success. She hasn’t paid a penny for publicity, all she has used is mouth-to-mouth. Many famous people have been given her products. Soon 54 journalists are going to come to her village, follow her around, see where she grew up, hear her story, and then write about her. But what she was most excited about telling us is that soon she’ll be on Oprah telling her story!
After talking she gave us some time to look around and buy some things. Because this was her factory and the products were created here (no need for export), they were a lot cheaper. I of course went to town and bought some soaps, a candle that when the wax burns it turns into shea butter lotion to rub on your skin, and a candle.
Here is a picture of me with the wonderful and very inspiring Savta Gamila!
After feeling overwhelmed with excitement, I made my way back onto our bus and we headed to Akko. Here we learned about the history of this town where a lot of Arabs and Israelis live together. More recently in 2009 on Yom Kippur our tour guide told us a story of an Arab who drove with his children through Jewish neighborhoods playing music loudly. (On Yom Kippur there is no driving nor music to be playing in public in Israel) This caused a riot in Akko and displayed what many think is the ‘true’ situation of Israeli society — an underground Civil War if you will. Our tour guide in my mind was a bit extreme, but he thinks that a civil war will happen in the near future and that within the next 20 years Israel may not exist as a country because of it. I did agree with him however on how he feels that right now there is just so much tension in one place. It needs to be taken care of before it escalates and becomes a major problem.
We then had some free time and walked around the shuk of Akko, having the opportunity to explore the seaside town ourselves. Ariel, Jeff, and I were introduced to an actual sugar cane which I was for the second time that day, really excited about a new find.
Right near the sugar cane there was a pre-desert meal we could have bought, which was all sorts of fish.
After browsing and exploring around the shuk we ate some lunch.
We then headed to a community college. Here we were again asked questions and told to answer them among one another. This time we spoke in groups of 8-10 people. We talked about the importance of identity and tried to figure out what are the three things you would tell someone to identify yourself. I struggled with this because I feel that it really depends on the scenario you are in in order to identify yourself. For example, if I was in Israel I may identify as an American. But if I was in a room full of Americans I may be more likely to mention how I’m Jewish.
When Vanessa spoke to the group as a whole she brought up such a great point. “What’s more important to me is the identity of a human being as a person.” She also said, “If you say you’re American it’s kind of what American means to them.” This means that you are identifying yourself as an American, but they then may stereotype you and not actually know who you are at all. Identity is so important and it still makes me sad to think of the Palestinians we met with in the Hope & Conflict education seminar who have no idea what or who to identify themselves as.
This was the last of our education seminars on OTZMA. I can not even believe it. They have been nothing short of enriching, enlightening, informative, inspiring, and everything over and in between. I am so thankful and fortunate to have learned as much as I did and I can not wait to continue to do so in the future. Thanks OTZMA staff!