During the days of the Temple, the priests would burn ketoret (incense) every evening and morning on the golden altar in front of the holy Ark of the Covenant.
According to the Zohar, the foundational work in the literature of Jewish mystical thought known as Kabbalah, the incense offering was among the most precious part of the Temple service in God’s eyes. One who would have the privilege to offer the incense would be rewarded by God with wealth and prosperity forever, in this world and the next.
The koteret was the first Jewish perfume, according to Shimon and Sarah Barda, who today use some of the incense offering’s original herbs and flowers, and many other natural scents, to create a line of perfumes, creams and deodorants without aluminum, added colors or chemicals. The couple investigated and collected thousands of plants and established a laboratory and manufacturing facility in the biblical heartland that sells a wide-range of natural products.
Their products all center on ingredients of Israel and the Bible.
“Levona,” for example, leverages frankincense. Levona in Hebrew is derived from its color, which is a pale-white (lavan). In Jeremiah 6:20 we learn that the frankincense was imported into the land of Israel from Sheba.
“What need have I of frankincense That comes from Sheba, Or fragrant cane from a distant land? Your burnt offerings are not acceptable And your sacrifices are not pleasing to Me” (Jeremiah 6:20).
There is also a line called Bereshit, which has an etrog base. It is believed that this citron fruit is what grew on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden.
A group of products named Katif are a reminder of the lost Jewish communities of Gush Katif, which were dismantled in 2005 to improve Israel’s security and international status in the absence of peace negotiations with the Palestinians. Yamit is named for the Jewish community in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula that was handed to the Egyptians in 1982 as part of the terms of the 1979 Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty.
Other products contain a unique variety of hibiscus found only in the Shomron area of the biblical heartland, where the Bardas live. Everything is FDA certified.
The family moved to Israel from France in 1978. They originally lived in the northern region of the country. But in 1984, they were given the opportunity to help found the Jewish community of Itamar in the Shomron.
Sarah remembers how when they first arrived there was nothing in Itamar but rocks and mud.
“I said to my husband, ‘You want to raise the children in this pace?’” Sarah recalled.
She said Shimon told her not to worry, that one day there would be electricity, water, homes and roads.
“It was not easy,” Sarah said. “But today, the community has blossomed.”
There are approximately 250 families living in Itamar in the Samarian mountains. The community is only five kilometers southeast of Nablus and has been the target of incessant Arab terror. Still, Sarah said, it continues to grow.
In France, Shimon worked in the fashion business. But he and his wife always had a dream of owning and running a perfume business. After moving to Itamar, he was inspired to make it happen. Shimon trained for six months in France and brought his knowledge back to Itamar.
In the small factory, they make their products themselves and design and fashion their own packaging.
Shimon said he and his wife feel Itamar Cosmetics represents the best of the Shomron, its creativity and beauty.
“If you really want to connect with the Land of Israel,” said Shimon. “This is one way to do it.”