Gamila Hiar isn't your typical tree-hugger, but she does love her olive trees. This 68-year-old Druze grandmother from the northern Israeli village of Peki'in lacks a formal education, but is well versed in the benefits and uses of the olive trees and herbs that grow on her family's lands.
Hiar and her sons have used that knowledge to produce Gamila's Secret, a four-year-old line of all-natural soaps. The soaps use only pure ingredients: a minimum of 80 percent pure virgin olive oil — "good enough to eat," said Hiar — as well as coconut, avocado, laurel, sweet almond and grape seed oils and shea butter. To that mixture she adds herbs including roman nettle, lavender, chamomile, rosemary, vervain, sage, rue and pistachio, as well as a secret formula of seven herbs developed by Hiar and passed on only to her children that gives the line its name. The newly formed soap cakes slowly age and harden for a period of three to six months before being sold.
The result, said Hiar, is a soap that is suitable for all skin types, made in a selection of fragrances including mint, geranium, lavender and jasmine. Gamila's Secret is currently sold in Europe and Japan as well as Israel, and Hiar's son Fuad is planning to bring the soaps to the U.S. in the near future.