The prophet Ezekiel (36:8) describes a day when the children of Israel will return to God’s holy land and the mountains – forlorn and forsaken – will come to life once again, yielding fruits and herbs.
Shlomo Keshet said he sees the words of Ezekiel coming to life “before my eyes and in my hands.”
Keshet, the owner of Saboneto Soaps, harvests the herbs of the biblical heartland to create a line of handmade, natural, healthy soaps. Each bar, Keshet told Breaking Israel News, has its own unique formula and is infused with God’s natural perfumes, such as lavender, lemongrass, mint, rosemary or spirulina.
“When I harvest these herbs, I become one with the land,” Keshet said. “For 2,000 years hills of the Benjamin region sat dormant. Today, we plant, and the land has come back to life. It flowers so quickly, it is as if the land has been waiting for this moment, as if the ground is calling out to us, ‘Plant me. I want to return to you.’”
He continued, “The more we connect to this land, the quicker we will usher in redemption.”
A Bridge for Peace
Keshet is a man of faith.
In 1991, he and his wife, Naomi, were among the founders of the Jewish community of Netzarim in the Gaza Strip, about 5 kilometers southwest of Gaza City.
“It was pastoral and amazing,” said Keshet, recalling his first years in the community. He worked in agriculture.
However, shortly after the Oslo Accords were signed by Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization in 1993, life became riddled with fear. The security situation in the area heightened and it was difficult to live peacefully.
Keshet and his family were determined to stay and work this God-given land. Until, in the early 2000s, Na’ami gave birth to their fourth son, Elnatan, who has Down syndrome. The security situation made it difficult to provide Elnatan – whose name means “God gave” – with even the basic services he required to thrive. So, in 2003, the family decided to leave Netzarim for Kochav HaShachar.
Kochav HaShachar, located in the biblical heartland, is where the Israelites came when they left Egypt; from the hills of the community you can see Jericho below. And even before that, it is an area that father Abraham walked.
“In these very hills, Abraham took his sheep out to pasture,” said Keshet. “The Jewish people have a very deep connection to this space.”
When Keshet first arrived in the community he worked in a local olive oil plant, learning about this ancient and holy fruit, and the value of its oil and fragrance. As his fascination with oil grew, he studied the art of artisan soap making as a hobby.
But when Elnatan completed school, his parents realized that unlike his brothers, each who enlisted in elite IDF units, Elnatan would have to find another way to serve his God and country. Keshet understood it would be his responsibility to give Elnatan the ability to sow the land and communities of Israel, just like him.
Keshet took a leap of faith and opened Saboneto. His son – and now four other people with special needs – work for him at the plant, stamping, labeling, wrapping and shipping his precious, handmade soaps. Keshet said his dream is to sell enough soap to create a large enterprise where all the biblical heartland’s young adults with special needs – Jews and Arabs – could work with him, connecting to the land.
“I think the bridge for real peace comes from the bottom,” Keshet said.
All Saboneto’s soaps are made from a sampling and mixture of some 20 herbs, most of them native to the heartland and all of them grown and picked from the rolling hills of the Benjamin region. For example, he uses nettle, which has been utilized for hundreds of years to treat painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout and anemia.
He also uses sage, which is rich in vitamin A and calcium can help with skin regeneration. Sage has antioxidants that combat free radicals known to cause wrinkles, fine lines and aging.
“It is amazing how everything we need for our health is already here,” Keshet said. “God puts these herbs in the ground for us to discover and benefit from.”
He said that most commercial products are infused with chemicals that are harmful to our health.
“Many people assume that our skin is a layer of protection – and in some ways that is true,” Keshet explained. “But in reality, our skin is highly porous. And like a sponge, it absorbs into our bodies whatever we put on it.”
He cites Psalm 37:27: “Flee from evil and do good, and dwell forever.”
“God is telling us, ‘Don’t use these chemicals,’” said Keshet. “Rub your body with God’s natural goodness.”
In other words, he said with a smile, buy Saboneto soaps.