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Thirty years ago, Dr. Shaul Eger, a physiologist specializing in animal
husbandry, was told by specialists that his heart arrhythmia was incurable and
that he might die.
He turned to ancient Jewish sources, where he read
about the health benefits of olive oil.
“I realized I had a problem, so I
went back to my ancestors – to the Bible,” Eger says.
He was particularly
inspired by the Jewish doctor Assaf Harofeh (Assaf the Physician) a Mesopotamian
believed to have lived in the sixth century, whose works opened Eger’s mind, and
heart, to a new remedy.
Assaf Harofeh writes that olive oil staves off
mental illness and other ailments, including those which afflict the
“We know from the Bible and Rambam [Maimonides, the leading
13th-century Jewish scholar and physician] that olive oil is good for the
memory,” says Eger, citing the Talmud, where it is written that those who drink
olive oil will retain their memory for 70 years.
“I found a lot of
scientific basis for using olive oil,” says the scientist, “and I started to
Eger adds that his Arab neighbors near Yokne’am, a village
close to the Carmel region, agreed about the oil’s health benefits.
the time, while olive oil was a mainstay of the diet of Israel’s Arab
population, Jewish Israelis hadn’t yet discovered it, so he bought it unrefined
from his Arab neighbors.
“It was awful – the quality at the time [was
low] because it was made in the traditional way, on stones. From a sanitary
point of view, it was a disaster. The acidity was high, the peroxide value was
Still, he swallowed the stuff.
remedy was a spoonful of olive oil a day, and within six months Eger was up to
eight spoons a day. His arrhythmia disappeared.
Before taking the olive
oil, Eger says of his arrhythmia: “I suffered from it badly and had two bad
experiences where I blacked out.”
But after drinking the olive oil, his
entire outlook and career path were transformed. He decided to quit his job at
the Agriculture Ministry and make his own olive oil.
Eger believes that
he was one of the first Jews in modern Israel to grow olive trees and harvest
the oil, “on the same land and in the same climate that made olives 3,000 and
4,000 years ago.”
Born in 1944, before Israel became a state, Eger was
infused with the Zionist ideals of being a pioneer and farming the land, but he
also wanted to be a scientist.
He had earned a PhD at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem and his studies were focused on cattle, but after
tasting the healing properties of olive oil, he switched gears.
learned by myself, and got into a niche, in a subject I found to be very
complicated, interesting and significant to human health,” he
“Olive oil is a tricky raw material. It’s easy to produce, but
easy to spoil – it’s so delicate. In terms of medicinal value, it’s potent. I
decided I was going to deal with this.”
The married father of three (who
says he almost became “unmarried” as a result of his olive oil passion), has
three grandchildren, and has planted 1,000 olive trees, whose fruit he reaps
With his money invested in science, Eger’s efforts have yielded a
number of new products which he hopes will make Israeli olive oil competitive in
the global market.
With around 160 olive oil producers, Israel currently
supplies only about 1 percent of the world’s total olive oil and, according to
Eger, the Israeli oil has no relative advantages in cost and taste.
Eger chose to manufacture health products, with his oil as the key ingredient.
One example from the line of Dr. Eger Olive Oil Products is a non-dairy,
low-sugar chocolate spread.
Together with Prof. Ishak Ne’eman of the
Technion Institute of Technology in Haifa, Eger developed a technology for
waterfree, preservative-free, transfatty-, acid-free solidification of oils. The
ensuing margarine substitute or spreadable olive oil is solid and stable at room
It can be used to make puff pastry, lip balm to treat herpes
cold sores – even diaper rash cream.
The Eger line also offers beauty
products for the face and skin.
A firm believer that people should not
eat cheese and dairy products, Eger hopes to share his life experience, and
cure, with the world.
Olive oil has fatty acids, good anti-viral,
anti-bacterial, antiinflammatory and anti-oxidative properties, he says,
concluding, “It has the optimal composition of fatty acids, and five percent of
its micro-ingredients are so important to our health.”
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