A long-term success story
The Salt of the Earth Atlit salt plant was founded by Mordechai Surdin, a salt-plant manager who immigrated to Israel, and Israel Kassel. The permission in principle “to produce table salt from seawater in Atlit” was given by the British as far back as October 1921. In a letter sent from Downing Street, Mr. Shuckburgh, Winston Churchill’s assistant, wrote: “From London’s point of view, the matter is confirmed, and now permission is subject to the British High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel.”
A report prepared for the inaugural shareholders’ meeting, stated that the Palestine Salt Company had been officially registered on the 13th of August, 1922, with assets of 40,000 Egyptian pounds (the local currency at the time).
To support worker welfare during these early years, the company and the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) signed an employee benefit agreement in which the business provided for all the needs of the plant’s workers, including dining facilities, medical care, education, etc.
After five months of work, a pool of 85 hectares was ready for use. Seawater was pumped into the area to kick off the evaporation process. The first salt harvest was conducted in the summer of 1924, yielding 2,117 tons of salt.
During the company’s first twenty years, production at the plant was based on manual labor, with only minimal mechanization.
Over time, the number of workers increased dramatically, from 200 during the 1920s to about 500 by the late 1940s. By 1948, when the State of Israel was founded, salt production had reached about 6,000 tons. At the same time, electric machinery was installed, which reduced manual worker effort.
In 1957, the plant was acquired by the Dankner and Gineau families, who converted it into a modern plant. Access roads were laid between the pools, and new pools, covering about 100 hectares, were dug. Mechanical salt-harvesting equipment reduced the harvest period to less than two weeks.
In the years 1954-1959, an experimental solar evaporation salt production plant had already been operating in Eilat. During that time, meteorological and topographical surveys of the area provided essential data to help operate the salt plant, which was set up several years later.
In 1971, Israel Salt Industries started salt production in Kalia, at the north end of the Dead Sea. This site produces only crude salt, using solar evaporation, with water flowing into the pools and from there, by gravity, back to the Dead Sea.
The Eilat plant, with a pool area covering some 56 hectares, was built in 1976. The salt water pumping station was built close to the Eilat port and the old desalinization plant. In the early 1980s, the Atlit plant underwent further development; buildings dating back to the 1920s and equipment installed in the 1960s made way for state-of-the-art facilities and modern salt packaging equipment.
Over the years, the plant’s manufacturing processes became ever more sophisticated, doubling and even tripling the plant’s production and processing output. During the early years, when the pools operated only with water sourced directly from the sea, annual production reached about 150,000 tons. Salt harvest progressed from collection by tractors and carts to laser-guided equipment used today that preserves salt purity and prevents damage to pool infrastructure. Over time, new processing and drying equipment was added, improving the salt quality to levels superior to Israeli and international standards.
Today, Salt of the Earth serves as a benchmark for quality, sustainability and innovation in the world of salt product development and manufacturing.