The last few remaining factories in the West Bank are still preserving the Palestinian tradition of handmade olive oil soap that goes back thousands of years!
Let’s look at the West Bank region that includes the country of Israel and some parts of Jerusalem.
Let’s find out what makes Nablus soap expensive.
Nablus soap is made of just three ingredients: olive oil, baking soda, and water. These make lovely smelling soaps, without harmful chemicals.
First, olive oil and baking soda are soaked together for a day. Then all three ingredients are cooked together in a large stainless steel pot – the pot is so huge that it almost looks like a well! Once ready, workers carry the hot liquid to the cooling room. There, the liquid is poured onto the floor and allowed to cool.
Next, they measure and cut the soap into Nablus’ signature blocks. It’s a beautiful, white square bar of soap, kind of like a block of cheese! Just cutting each soap takes two whole days! Then the bars are left for 40 days to dry. Ready soap bars are wrapped in pretty paper and sent to the markets for sale.
Years ago, while there were about 40 handmade soap factories in the West Bank, today only two remain. That is because there has been a sharp decline in demand for these soaps. The buyers are moving towards more affordable soaps imported from China or Turkey rather than the Nablus soaps. To add to this, restrictions on the export of soaps by the Israeli government have forced many businesses to shut down.
Thankfully, the remaining factories are continuing the tradition and hoping demand for authentic, chemical-free soap will rise soon.