What it’s like for workers at one of the 2 remaining West Bank olive oil soap businesses

  • Olive oil soap has been manufactured in the West Bank for centuries – but today, there are just two soap factories still operating.
  • Now, a once thriving industry is struggling to stay afloat.
  • We went inside the Nablus Soap Company to see how traditional Palestinian olive oil soap is made, and how workers are coping with a changing industry.

This is how olive oil soap is made in the West Bank.

It’s being poured on the floor to cool and solidify.

The Palestinian tradition goes back over a thousand years.

But while the West Bank once had nearly 40 soap factories, Nablus Soap Company is just one of two still operating.

And today, a once thriving industry is struggling to stay afloat.

Nablus soap is made from just three ingredients: olive oil, baking soda, and water.

Ahmad al-Fakhouri, Nablus Soap Company supervisor: “They turn into a beautiful-smelling soap that lacks any chemical ingredients. There’s only one natural ingredient, the olive oil.”

The first step is to cook all three ingredients together in a huge stainless steel pot.

Al-Fakhouri: “It takes about 5 tons of olive oil.”

“To cook soap, you need to add the oil and baking soda and let them soak for a day. The following day you continue the cooking process.”

When it’s ready, workers carry out the boiling-hot liquid one bucket at a time. They pour the liquid soap onto the floor, where it cools.

Next, they measure out and mark the soap with an outline of the distinctive Nablus bar shape.

Al-Fakhouri: “And how do you recognise it? By the way it looks. Keeping its square shape is what has preserved its market and brand.”

Read the article by Dylan Barth and Mark Abadi in Business Insider Australia.