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Sun rays over Kinneret on an autumn day

Eretz Gshur Olive Press, Visitor Center

Eretz Gshur Olive Press and Visitor Center

Rainbow captured over Golan wilderness

Eretz Gshur Olive Press - What Brought Me Here?

Eretz Gshur: A Jewish olive press

Following my visit to the Deir al Assad modern olive press (post in preparation) and my own experience picking olives at a  Sharona farm, I was curious to visit the well-known traditional olive press  in the Druse village of Rameh. Unfortunately, the place was closed. I was referred to another venue, but here photography and interviews were prohibited. The man on the phone, who had big plans for his business, was unforthcoming about a visit.

However, an inviting ad on Facebook captured my fancy: Eretz Gshur Olive Press in the Golan Heights, a modern high-tech Jewish olive oil operation. I made initial contact and chose the right day to come: the avocado picking I was engaged in was halted due to rainy forecast.

It was an hour’s drive to the Golan. The Heights, or Ramah, an ancient land of lava, basalt, volcanoes and a lot of human struggle, has a special wild appeal to me. Wilderness both scares and attracts my adventurous nature. The Syrian-Israeli fierce wars fought here added an edge.

Gshur or Geshur – where on Earth did that come from?

The entrance to Eretz Gshur Olive Press and VIsitor Center

Eretz Gshur, or Geshur, is identified with the area stretching along the eastern shore of lake Kinneret, and reaching south to the Yarmuk River, The ancient Geshurites worshipped a moon-god in the form of a bull as was common in southern Syria, as well as a rain god. During  David’s rule in Israel, Geshur was an independent Aramean kingdom. David married Maachah, a daughter of Talmai, king of Gshur (2 Samuel 3:3, 1 Chronicles 3:2). Absalom, her son, fled to his mother’s native country after the murder of his half-brother Amnon and stayed there three years. By the 9th century BCE the kingdom of Gshur had disappeared from history. Nonetheless, a modern Israeli Kibbutz took its name….

Above: The entrance to the visitor center, Eretz Gshur

Kibbutz Gshur, or Geshur, was founded in 1971 by Hashomer Hatzair. a socialist-Zionist youth movement and was built to the south of the Syrian village of Al-Adaisa, which was depopulated and razed, after being occupied by Israel in 1967. The first Golan vineyards were planted in Geshur in 1976.

The beautiful sign photographed above welcomes the visitor to the Eretz Gshur olive press and shop. Yossi Friedman heads and coordinates the operation.

Olive Growing and Harvesting Eretz Gshur-Style

Eretz Gshur’s high-end growing practices 

Prior to entering the visitor center, I walked the grounds a bit. Some beautiful olive trees, and an old harvesting machine, adapted from grape picking to olive harvesting, welcomed my arrival. Accordingly, as representative Darya told me later, the trees themselves are cut and maintained in a way that facilitates machine harvesting. The groves are located in various locations throughout the Heights, to provide optimal conditions for the different strains grown. Apart from the local variants, foreign breeds were adopted from several olive-growing giants around the Med, (see below). Special attention is paid to the soil and the micro-climate in choosing locations.

The kibbutz now has 136 acres of olives, originating from Spain, Greece, Italy and Israel. The tastes vary from light and fruity to dark and pungent with “hints of nuts and cut grass”.

Eretz Gshur unique olive plantation

No hand touching

The harvester and the way the trees are cut and maintained ensure minimal damage to the trees and protect the fruit. The entire process takes place without a human hand touching. All procedures are fully mechanized, and the oil is extracted within hours of picking to ensure quality. When fruit stands for a long time, flavor is compromised.

The old harvester adapted from taking grapes to taking olives. Eretz Gshur Visitor Center

Eretz Gshur Visitor Center. A sign explaining the innovation and novelty of the olive operation

Left: The old grape harvester, adapted for picking olives. Right: A sign explaining the innovation and ingenuity of the Eretz Gshur olive enterprise. Bottom: a new, functional harvester

Eretz Gshur. A grape harvester turned into an olive harvester.

The amazing machine harvests about an acre an hour and also works at night!!! It needs only three workers to operate. In comparison, manual picking can cover a quarter of an acre a day, and picking with mechanical shakers two acres daily (check this process here).




Oil Extraction Eretz Gshur Style - Quality Without Compromise

Oil extraction Eretz Gshur-style

Oil is extracted in a way that enhances the aroma of the different variants. Each strain is extracted separately, though blends might be created later. 

Eretz Gshur Visitor Center. A sign depicts oil pressing production process

The extraction process includes: washing and separating from leaves and branches. crushing and grinding, malaxation, decanting, separating and storing. 

The fun-to-watch part: separating olives from leaves and washing

The video above is pretty self-explanatory and a very rewarding watch. If you are a bit confused what happens first or second, and where the olives go, so am I. Your understanding is as good as mine. 

Eretz Gshur olive press. First a machine separates olives from leaves

Crushing and grinding

Crushing is obviously the most crucial and important step, used to be done with the help of mules and oxen with super-heavy stones smashing the fruit. These installations can be seen all around Israel from Biblical times and until the recent present. 

The oldest olive press worldwide was found in Tel Hadar in Eretz Gshur, and is estimated at 3200 years old, This simple manual press consisted of a large stone weight that was used to crush olives in a shallow pit.

Since the invention of machines, the procedure is clearly less strenuous on men and animals, and the yields much greater.

Unfortunately, the process takes place in hermetically closed apparatuses, prohibitive to photography..

The next stage is “malaxation”.

What,on Earth,is “malaxation”?

I set out to investigate. Apparently, this slow motion behind opaque fortified plastic, the first machine I filmed here, is where this all-important process takes place. 

According to an article in Science magazine , malaxation is an extremely important phase in olive oil extraction. Malaxation is a slow, continuous kneading aimed at breaking the emulsions formed during the crushing stage. Controlled heating of the paste diminishes viscosity. This operation facilitates coalescing of small oil droplets. These can be separated subsequently using a decanter centrifuge. The heat activates the enzymes within and the oil quality.

And “decanting”?

OK, so decanting is letting the more solid fragments sink to the bottom of the tank, and collecting the oil from the top. 

Here is the professional explanation,: 

Decantation is a natural process involving the separation of oils from excess amurca (the bitter-tasting, dark-colored, watery sediment that settles out of unfiltered olive oil over time. It is also known as “olive oil lees“, and coarser impurities which naturally settle at the bottom of the tank.”


That’s the centrifuge. Much like our home washing machine in the spin mode, the machine must be hermetically closed for security, so the visitor cannot see the process. The watery phase is separated from the oily one by differential settling, using high centrifugal force .


In these large containers the oil rests for a while, prior to bottling. Stainless steel is the best way to store olive oil. Storing is done at strictly controlled temperatures.

Once pressed the olive oil is stored here. Eretz Gshur.

In Eretz Gshur, the olive oil is stored in large stainless steel containers.

Eretz Gshur - The Shop

After answering all my questions about the process, Darya, a relatively new arrival at Gshur, but highly enthusiastic, walks me around the shop.

The oil comes in containers of different sizes, all the way from small 250 ml bottles and up to 5 liter cans, depending on the variant. 

Eretz Gshur oils are derived from local Souri and Barnea strains, Spanish Arbequina, Morisca and Picual, French Picholine, Italian Leccino and Coratina, and Greek Korneiki olives.  A detailed explanation about types of olives grown in Israel can be found in my previous post

The shop also sells the “Gshur Blend”, which mixes oils harvested at the Gshur plantations, including the Spanish Arbequina, which contributes the aromatics, the French Picholine that adds the fuity taste, and the Israeli Barnea, which adds a bit of bitterness and sharpness. 

 I ask Darya if people still visit the place since the war started. She said I was the third in five weeks….That made me sad. קובץ:Sad smiley yellow simple.svg – ויקיפדיה. I hope I am inspiring the readers to come, visit, shop on-site or at least on-line.

Eretz Gshur shop sells a variety of oils and other products

The store also sells other products made around the Golan, like quality wines, jams, fruit preserves and more. Below: my acquisitions.

Eretz Gshur shop - quality Golan products

 Top; general shop view. Bottom: my purchase. All products are very high quality. The prize-earning oils of several varieties are sold in bottles or cans up to 5 liters. All products are locally-produced and manufactured in the Golan.

The Thai Village

On the way out of the visitor’s center, I took a short stroll to the back of the premises, where I found the Thai dwellings, a typical feature in all Israeli agricultural communities, until the disaster of October 7th

I was told by a manager that out of 20 workers from Thailand, 10 stayed after that calamitous day.

  Eretz Gshur. Volleyball court for Thai workers,migunit, special bomb shelter, Eretz Gshur

 Left: a volleyball court for the workers. Right: A “migunit”, bomb shelter.

Bottom: a cat peeps from the armchair placed in front of a Thai residence. Work shoes and laundry are by the door.

Eretz Gshur. Thai agricultural workers dwellings

Kibbutz Gshur

Driving the peripheral road

Every kibbutz has a peripheral road surrounded by a gated fence. I love driving, or walking, along those roads, seeing the view outside, and the houses inside. 

Kibbutz Gshur, like many kibbutzim today, has an older part with basic, though cozy and well-gardened houses, trees and flower beds, and an “expansion”, where people from the cities buy lots and self-build their homes. The expansions are usually somewhat fancier, but generally look new and a bit sterile .Here and elsewhere, “expansions” tend to always be under construction.

I stopped to look in awe at the super rugged landscape outside the fence – deep ravines, barren soils, primeval landscape typical of the Golan, which in the past hosted a number of active volcanoes.

Gshur.. Kibbutz houses viewed from the peripheiral road.            A Kibbutz house. Gshur, Golan Heights

Older kibbutz buildings with lawns, trees. gardens

Older and newer construction at Kibbutz Gshur, Golan HeightsPeripheral road lined with new constructions

Gshur. Kinneret view from peripheral circular roadLake Kinneret is seen in the far view, with rugged Golan landscapes interposed betwixt

A quality life

Kibbutz Gshur, located on the ridge of the southern Golan Heights. was officially established in 1976, following various early attempts, changes of location and even Syrian attacks, in which one woman was killed. Overtime, the kibbutz had undergone ideological changes and is now defining itself as as a “renewed Kibbutz”, meaning members get salaries independently and pay community taxes for services. Social life is still communal and rich. Darya, who has moved here recently, is very happy with her decision.

Life on a kibbutz in the Golan offers residents full participation and the ability to influence decisions, Quality education is provided for the young ones in the Kibbutz itself. High schoolers bus to schools in the area. The Kibbutz owns in common a dairy, chicken coops, the Eretz Gshur olive press, a cable factory, vineyards, various plantations, including olives and almonds, and field crops. There are many small businesses, as well, and some people work in other industries in the area. A high-tech park is being built in the vicinity. The kibbutz plant manufactures communication cables for local use and export.

The vision of the Gshur community is to plan, establish and conduct a rural community settlement which is based on a community that encourages cooperation and mutual aid between its members.”

As in many Kibbutzim nowadays there is a pub, a community club, a swimmimg pool and a brewery. 

The relations with the local Druse communities are congenial, even if the Druse in the Golan do not serve in the Israeli military like their brethren from the Galilee.

Hispin - A High-Tech Water Reservoir

My adventurous side had to have an extra challenge before heading home, so I searched the Internet  for attractions in the area. A curious water reservoir, promising to be large and substantial, caught my eye. I hoped it attracted migratory birds, so I put Bnei Israel Reservoir on my Waze GPS and headed on.  

Spinoza at the end of the world

Hispin is a Jewish religious educational center, but it is located in a real place with the Syrians not too far away, and with actual farming and working communities nearby. By definition, they must deal with real-life issues. Perhaps that’s why some high-school students I gave a ride to in the morning, were much more open and liberal than expected, We talked about their schedule and plans, and I was genuinely surprised to hear they considered Spinoza an inspiration, rather than blasphemy, and were interested in general philosophy. One of them talked about God being everywhere, inside and outside, not just this guy sitting on a cloud, commanding and giving orders…..

A muddy climb to water reservoir, Hispin, Golan
A muddy climb to water reservoir, Hispin, Golan

The boy explained they studied all the required subjects for regular matriculation starting 7am, and in the afternoons they had religious studies until 8 pm. Following high school, they get drafted to the army, or go to a pre-military preparatory. The boys seemed very gifted, enthusiastic and idealistic. If all religious people in Israel were nearly as open and enlightened, perhaps we would have less problems.

Mud,a wounded bird and solar collectors

I started walking from a small parking lot found at the end of a winding road leading out of the settlement. A young guy on a quad bike re-directed me to the reservoir. He promised less mud on that particular turn.

I saw no birds, except a wounded, limping kestrel in the field below, and a few ravens. Once there, I could barely see the reservoir beyond the security fences and the solar receptors. I eventually called emergency services of the Society for the Protection of Nature, but that was later, and perhaps too late.

The walk down was arduous. Despite the guy’s promise, I already collected huge mud cakes on my shoes on the way up. To make things worse, I did not take my walking stick from the car. The issue was resolved by using the umbrella I did take to anchor me, as I climbed slidingly and slipperishly back down. 

Hispin water reservoir is operated by solar collectors

Bnei Yisrael water reservoir, Hispin, covered in solar receptorsBnei Israel  high tech solar water reservoir near Hispin, Golan Heights

Magnificent Golan Vistas on Way Home

At the inevitable moment when hunger striked, I succumbed to my body’s demand, and had a lousy sandwich in the only open place in Hispin, a trailer with a small yard in front and a few tables. Kosher, of course. 

Forlorn Israeli flag on drive back from Gshur

On the way home, a lonely wind-swept Israeli flag on the roadside reminded me of the war.

Regardless, a magnificent rainbow wove itself across the sky, and the Kinneret provided awesome interplays of sun, cloud and water glitter.

Rainbow, Golan Heights

Sun rays over Kinneret on an autumn day


This post is part of a series about olive culture in Israel. Already published are:

Olive branches of peace – autumn harvest at Beit Kerem Valley

Olive picking, my first Masik – Helping farmers in time of war

And in preparation is an article about Deir al Assad olive press and volunteering in time of war.


This post belongs in a post series about Blue and Green Israel  under the general category of  Israel’s Best at Planet’s Daughter Website.

This is an ongoing project currently under construction. 

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