The Iconic Israeli Honey That Actually Isn't All Israeli

The nice kibbutz that purports to make Israeli honey and olive oil isn't what it seems

Yad Mordechai honey.
Ofer Vaknin

Yad Mordechai, hello, Moshe at your service speaking.

Hello, Moshe At Your Service, Nir Gontarz here. I’m an occasional consumer and also a journalist with Haaretz.

Yes.

When I buy Yad Mordechai honey or olive oil, I always have the sense that I’m getting made-in-Israel products.

Yes.

But I understand that that’s not the case.

Ah, look, there’s... It’s like this, on the subject of uhh honey and olive oil, we have, you know, in times of shortage, we, that is most, uhh, we have to import to Israel. Both the olives and the honey are based on local production. Only, during times of shortage – so that our clients won’t be left without olive oil or honey – we are sometimes compelled, uhh to import [from abroad].

That seems a bit deceptive to me, because the packaging stays the same even when the products are imported. It all looks the same.

The packaging uhh, yes, same thing. We, you know, the whole subject of safeguarding quality, of control, the whole process, even if it’s by importation, it’s all done, you know, by means of our workers. We do all the control. In importation, too. It goes through a very strict process of quality control by our professional workers.

Yes, but it’s not Israeli produce. It’s neither local honey nor Israeli olive oil. They’re foreign products that you sell with a Yad Mordechai label.

But again, it’s only for supplementation during periods of shortage.

Your honey, which is now on the shelves, can you promise me that it’s Israeli?

Can I promise? No. So look, what we’ll do, because you’re both a consumer and a journalist, we’ll get a clarification. We’ll check it out. Someone will get back to you.

You’re not certain that the honey 

I’m certain.

Eh?

Certain that, that, that the honey – for most of it, we, uhh, use local produce.

What is “most”?

There are things that I, you know, things that I can’t give you an answer to. We have people in the company who will be happy to give you answers to all your questions. We’re an external customer service department.

So who are you referring me to?

To the authorities on the subject. A relevant authority in Yad Mordechai’s industries.

I’m writing this down. What’s his name and phone number?

No, I don’t have it. What we do, we send a message to him, and they’ll get back to you. I’d like first name, surname and phone number.

Nir Gontarz, from Haaretz newspaper.

Hold on! Someone from Kfar Sava came up when I checked that name. Is it you?

I once lived in Kfar Sava, but why in the world do you have my details?

Maybe you called in the past.

I never called Yad Mordechai.

No?

What was the content of that phone call?

You called us in the past – we’re Strauss, you know – in 2009, you called us about mango nectar that tasted bad.

Interesting. I didn’t know. So this whole image of a nice kibbutz opposite the Gaza Strip that produces Israeli honey, turns out to be a huge conglomerate that imports products from abroad, huh?

Why jump to conclusions? Come on, you know, you called us, we want, you know, to give you something a bit deeper. Let me have your phone number.

052-555 

That’s what it says! 555-8285, I have it here.

You have a real database.

So, it’s like this: Whoever calls the group, one of the products made by the Strauss units, [the information] is saved.

What do you do with it?

We don’t make use of it, other than just storing it in the database – if you contacted us in the past about one product or another. You know, like in that case of the bad taste. You’re first of all a journalist with Haaretz. Yes?

Yes. Write that I am actually claiming that to take imported honey and to put a Yad Mordechai label on it is to fool the customer.

You say it’s foreign produce and we just put a label on it.

You take foreign products and create the illusion that it’s a kibbutz product, an Israeli product. Write that I’m requesting that they get back to me really quickly. Otherwise it’ll stay this way [in my article].

We will pass this on immediately.

Thank you very much.

.....

Hello, this is Yair from Yad Mordechai.

Hi. I had a bad connection and could barely hear you when I tried you before and I don’t want to make a mistake. What I managed to understand is that Yad Mordechai imports part of its honey and olive oil from abroad. And the honey and the oil are processed in Israel, put into jars and given the Yad Mordechai label. Did I understand right?

Yes. Partly. Yes.

Just tell me your full name.

Yair Schwartz. Listen, I buy most of the honey for Yad Mordechai in Israel. In the past two years, three, we’ve received less because of regulations. In short, Israel can’t provide all the honey it needs. There’s not enough, and then a very small part comes from abroad.

Be clear. What is “very small”? How many tons?

I don’t know if I can give numbers, as you’ve asked, how much of this and how much of that. We will never bottle honey [from abroad] as is. There are matters of flavor, it has to be very similar to the honeys we use.

Can you promise me that if I go to the supermarket here, next door, and buy Yad Mordechai honey, that it’s all made in Israel?

Not always. I can’t promise. Note that there are definitions of what an “Israeli” manufacturer is. At least 35 percent of the product has to be Israeli. We are an Israeli manufacturer. It’s the law. It’s law.

You are actually telling me that you mix Israeli honey and honey from abroad in one jar.

Situations like that happen. Happened. Happen. With all the big manufacturers.

So, if I want 100 percent Israeli honey, I have to buy from a small grower, direct from the farm.

If you’re looking for 100 only Israeli, then go for that. I, Yair, am not into badmouthing, but there are small manufacturers that you can buy from – it’s not supervised.

In my opinion, Mr. Schwartz, to put the label of the lovely kibbutz across from the Gaza Strip, which so symbolizes Israel, on a jar of imported honey – it’s misleading. Don’t you think?

No. I can’t change labels every second. We work according to the law. I operate according to my truth. If the whole amount that’s needed existed in Israel, we would buy

Which honey is cheaper?

From abroad.

Interesting.

But there are levies.

Thank you. Shana tova.