Blended Israeli-Palestinian olive oil is one formula for
Blended Israeli-Palestinian olive oil is one formula for
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While politicians and diplomats work toward mitigating conflict in the Middle East, a group of Arab and Israeli entrepreneurs are forging their own brand of peace based on the shared culinary traditions of the region.

Working with San Diego State’s Hansen Institute for World Peace and the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv, experts from Israel, Egypt, Jordan and Palestine have been quietly cooperating to improve the yield and quality of their traditional agricultural products: olives, dates, tomatoes, pomegranates and almonds.

Now, SDSU’s Entrepreneurial Management Center (EMC) has joined the partnership to help develop a joint olive oil marketing initiative in the region.

Through the Oil for Peace program, olive oil pressed from Israeli and Palestinian olives will be blended and sold. Proceeds from the sale of this olive oil product will provide income to support other entrepreneurs developing peace products in the Middle East.

“If people have the opportunity, they will want to support the peace process in the Middle East,” said SDSU President Stephen L. Weber, who sits on the board of governors for the Peres Center for Peace. “And this gives them a small way–every time they’re in the grocery store–to support that process.”

Weber noted that the Oil for Peace partners have more than an idealistic commitment to peace.

“Each party has skin in the game,” he said, “so this is not charity: it’s real people making investments.”

The collaborative Oil for Peace program not only unites Arabs and Israelis in a common effort; it also provides an opportunity for students in San Diego and in the Middle East to go abroad and become more deeply involved in the project.

Sanford Ehrlich, QUALCOMM executive director of the EMC, said graduate students from San Diego State and universities in the Middle East will work together to determine potential markets for these peace products and to provide much-needed assistance to entrepreneurs in the region.

“We hope that these cross-border collaborations can improve entrepreneurial development in the region and establish the types of ties between countries that are so necessary for an enduring peace,” Ehrlich said.

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