Turning a Barren Land into a Flourishing Olive Grove

In 1997, Rabbi Yosef Shukar was standing on a tall hill, overlooking the site of Ancient Shiloh on one side and a long stretch of barren hills on the other. Although there hadn’t been anything growing here for about 2,000 years, Yosef believed in the prophecy of Amos 9:14, “And they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards… they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.” He knew deep down that now was the time to replant and reap the fruit.

Yosef and his wife Ronit helped establish the settlement in the hills east of Shiloh, called Achiya (named after the Levite Prophet from Ancient Shilo). This pioneering couple soon founded the Meshek Achiya olive grove and olive oil factory. At the time, he was teaching in a pre-military yeshiva. The couple, along with Yosef’s students, took barren land, planted olive trees, and watched with amazement as the land began to flourish before their very eyes. They had heard that the Land of Israel had waited for the Jewish people and that it came to life with the Jewish touch, but it was a miraculous experience to see it for themselves. The Land of Israel is described in the Bible as, “a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey” (Deuteronomy 8:8).  

Yosef – more commonly known as Yossi – was born in Ramat Gan, and attended Yeshiva in Shiloh in 1985. He immediately fell in love with the Binyamin Region, and it became clear to him and all those who knew him, that he would devote his life to developing the region known as the Biblical Heartland. When talk began of founding a new settlement, Rabbi Michael Brom the head of the Yeshiva immediately called Yossi and told him about the plan. He wanted Yossi on board, and Yossi made it his life’s mission. The Binyamin Region, where Yossi founded the settlement of Achiya and his olive business, was the area where King Saul was first anointed with olive oil.

Yossi Shukar planting olive trees

After seeing his olive orchards flourish, Yossi bought an olive press for Achiya where he would cold-press his precious olives. Cold-pressing is a slower process, but maintains the integrity of the olives, resulting in higher quality oil. Just as it says in Exodus 27:20, the oil that was used to light the candle in the Tabernacle had to be, ”pure olive oil”, so too the oil of Meshek Achiya has won international prizes, and is acclaimed as one of the finest in the world.

Tragedy struck the Shukar family when Yossi was mortally wounded in a work accident while cleaning the olive press. Ronit was called to the hospital where she was told he would not live. She said the “Shema” (“Hear O Israel..” Deuteronomy 6:4) prayer with him (commonly recited when it is clear someone is going to pass away), and awaited the worst. But, with prayer and miracles, Yossi survived, though he was paralyzed for the last six years of his life. Ronit saw her remaining time with Yossi as a precious gift. Right after he was hurt, he was asked, “Can you speak?” and he answered with, “Am Yisrael Chai, Kayam, V’Yinatzeach,” which loosely means “Israel is alive, exists and will succeed.” Ronit thought that if in that tragic moment he was busy thinking about the nation of Israel, then they will be able to get through this. For years, he was only able to communicate with his eyes and a special computer screen and she went to visit him in the hospital every day. When asked by a friend why she doesn’t take a small vacation, she responded saying that visiting him is not tiring, but instead seeing Yossi gives her strength. Along with her five children, she spent Yossi’s final years caring for him and maintaining his orchards and olive oil business, growing it into the renowned Meshek Achiya.  

From cultivating and growing the olives, all the way to marketing and selling the oil, Meshek Achiya does every single step of the process – the entire picture from the orchard to the bottle. Their quality oil has won various international prizes, and has been awarded Israel’s finest olive oil several years in a row. It is the olive oil of choice for people from across the spectrum including private consumers and top chefs. At Meshek Achiya, they believe that good olive oil starts with good olives.

Meshek Achiya Olive Oil- one of the finest olive oils in the world

Located in Israel’s Biblical Heartland, Meshek Achiya uses ancient Hebrew agricultural practices to grow the best olives and produce internationally acclaimed olive oil. The olives are harvested in a small window of time, from October through December. Many other countries harvest their olives through March, when the olives are past their prime, resulting in lower quality olive oil.

Pure olive oil has held great significance in Jewish rituals for thousands of years. It is such a fundamental element in Jewish life, that it is actually used for anointing kings, “Then shalt thou take the anointing oil, and pour it upon his head, and anoint him” (Exodus 29:7). The upcoming Hannukah holiday is also a great reminder of the significance of pure olive oil in Jewish ritual. The Maccabees won a miraculous victory against the Greeks, and went to the Temple to light the Menorah. The Menorah could only be lit with the finest, purest olive oil. They only found enough oil to last for one day, and the process of making new oil was eight days long. God made a miracle, and the tiny amount of oil burned for eight days.

Hannukah, which will be celebrated next week, is the holiday of miracles, the holiday where light vanquishes darkness. May we all merit to see miracles in our lives, like Yossi’s miraculous dream come true – seeing his olive orchards come to life, and surviving the accident to live for six more years.

You can now be a part of this miracle – taste the finest olive oil and at the same time support Yossi’s wife and children by buying this special olive oil from The Heart of Israel’s Shop. The price includes shipping from Israel world wide!

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