December 8, 2013

My problem with Taybeh Beer.

On the face of it, we should be happy that Taybeh Beer is sold in Israel.

You've got to hand it to them.  The spunky Khoury brothers, David and Nadim, returned to their West Bank village of Taybeh after the 1993 signing of the Oslo Accords.  The Christian brothers had been businessmen in the U.S. for 35 years.  And what did they do?  They invested the family money and their considerable talents in opening a brewery in the heart of a Moslem population.  This is akin to opening a pork sausage factory in Mea Shearim!

Now as far as I know, Christians and Jews have been making arak and other distilled spirits in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Jordan for generations -- but I've never heard of any beer brewers.

So not only is the Khoury family a ground breaker in the Islamic world, but they were also the first craft brewery between the Mediterranean and the Jordan to challenge Israel's industrial beer makers.
Taybeh means "delicious" in Arabic.

And . . . they make good beer.  I remember tasting Taybeh shortly after they began brewing  in 1995, and licking my lips.  Today, the Taybeh brewery produces 600,000 liters of beer a year(!), selling half of that to Palestinians, 40% to Israelis, and 10% abroad, including  Europe and Japan.  The beer is also brewed and bottled under license in Germany. They are no longer a microbrewery.

Taybeh makes five beers, each labeled according to its color.  There's a Golden, a Dark, an Amber, a Light, and a non-alcoholic beer (something to keep religious Moslems happy, I guess).  There is nothing especially "Palestinian" or even Middle Eastern about these beers.  They are all brewed in the tried and true German traditional style.  But they are all very drinkable; excellent alternatives to our industrially brewed beer.  We should be celebrating.

But yet . . .

The Khoury family has chosen confrontation over fermentation.  Although the Taybeh website is free of politics (except for the press clippings), the Khourys never miss an opportunity to attack Israel, the "occupation," the "settlers" around Taybeh.  If their company isn't growing fast enough, its the fault of the Israeli security checks and bureaucracy.  If shipping their export beer takes too long, it's because Israel discriminates against them.  "Anti-Israel" has become as much a part of the Taybeh Beer brand as the "pure brewing" and "building Palestine" narratives.

"Drink Taybeh and taste the revolution" is one of their slogans.  Which "revolution" is that?  Is that the one that Yasser Arafat started out of the barrel of his gun?  Or is that the one that the Khourys started by brewing beer in a hostile Moslem environment?  "This is our resistance to occupation," is what Nadim Khoury says in one of their videos, while he takes part in another titled, "Palestine, Beer and Oktoberfest -- Under Occupation."

 His sister-in-law, Dr. Maria Khoury, the wife of David, is particularly vicious, blaming Israel not only for all the family's problems but also for the emigration of Christians from the West Bank, as if Islamic extremism plays no role.
Fermentation . . . or confrontation?

I understand the need for the Christian minority living under PLO rule to show that they are no less nationalistic than the Moslems.  They are a community under constant harrassment and attack.  Young Christians are leaving the West Bank as Moslem rule becomes less and less bearable.  The Palestinians who had come back to invest in their homeland following the Oslo Accords were caught by surprise when Arafat started his 2000 intifada.  Almost all of them fled back to where they came from.  But the Khourys had invested too much to flee.  They stayed and today feel beleaguered.  I understand.

But show some balance, some humility.  The Israeli security measures are not aimed at keeping the brewery business small, but at keeping Israelis alive.  Before Arafat's intifada there were no problems with security checks.  The Khoury brothers know this.              

The truth is that the Palestinian Authority frowns on all private initiative that it does not control, that does not stream money towards its corrupt officials.  [See: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4076/palestinian-economy-sabawi]

Another thing:  Since 2005, the Taybeh Brewery has been hosting a beer festival known as the Oktoberfest in Taybeh village.  (Since the only beer served is Taybeh, it's not much a beer festival, but that's another story.)  Thousands of people come from Israel, the West Bank and even foreign countries to drink beer, buy Palestinian handicrafts and eat felafel.

Oktoberfest: Kicked 
out of Taybeh.
This year, for the first time, the Taybeh city council refused to allow the festival to take place.  Nadim Khoury himself was shot at and his car was destroyed by a Molotov cocktail.  The council demanded an exorbitant sum from Khoury, but that's not the only reason he decided to relocate the Oktoberfest to a hotel in Ramallah.  The growing Islamic extremism in the Palestinian territories simply could not tolerate a festival where the sexes mingle and people drink alcohol in public.

The independent Palestinian state that the Khourys give lip service to, will not be tolerant and democratic, any more than the Palestinian Authority is today.  If Hamas and other Islamist parties take control, as many commentators say they might, the alcohol-marketing Khoury family may end up as the fifth ingredient in their beer kettles.      

After the Oktoberfest was cancelled in Taybeh, Nadim Khoury himself admitted  that Palestinian culture "is not one of working hard and making wealth.  The culture here is . . . one of jealousy, corruption and blackmail."  So maybe everything isn't Israel's fault after all.

I call on Nadim Khoury and his family to end the anti-Israel double talk, to get out of politics altogether and just brew beer.  Not for the glory of Palestine or for "resisting occupation," but for the taste and the pleasure it brings.  Chill out.  Sit back and pour a beer and try to dissipate some of the hate you harbor for those Jewish neighbors on the hill.  You'll find they may be important allies in your fight for religious tolerance, minority rights, private initiative and government reform in your homeland.  They may even turn out to be your best customers in all of Judea and Samaria -- even if it's one day called "Palestine."        

           

7 comments:

  1. Yitzchak Miskin12/08/2013

    Great post, Doug. I will happily taste their beer when I read in your blog that they are now "kosher"!

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  2. I really did enjoy reading this post, given that I live in Samaria, myself. When the Khoury brothers stop crapping on us, and get some kind of kosher certificate, I'll think about trying their beer - even though I'm not much of a beer-drinker myself.

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  3. Anonymous12/08/2013

    Yes, a very astute commentary. Back when I first moved to Jerusalem, I'd drink Taybeh quite a lot. I don't anymore, because they're wusses. And the irony is that Palestinians claim they're native to this land? The natives are wine drinkers and speak Hebrew and retain the calendar that served their ancestors thousands of years ago. The Palestinians are predominantly Muslim and are destroying historic Israel's native culture with help from Aryan European bigots.

    However, if Taybeh came out with a good IPA, well then I might not be able to resist, just like I can't resist Palestinian hummus. Otherwise, though, they're beers are quite mediocre -- certainly lagging behind in quality relative to what Israel's breweries have been accomplishing.

    I've seen at various places across the internet claims that there's only one brewery in the Palestinian territories, but that's not true at all. Unless the world no longer considers the settlements Palestinian territory, there's an outstanding brewery in Gush Etzyon, and there are more elsewhere in the West Bank. But everything when it comes to the Palestinians is plagued by hypocrisy and deception.

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  4. Anonymous12/09/2013

    first off all, our ancestors in Europe (specifically, Germany and Holland ) drank beer without hashgacha for centuries. So don't make a chumra where one is not needed (same goes for whiskey, but that another story).
    secondly, don't boycott Taybeh beer just as you don't want others to boycott jewish businesses in the west bank. keep politics out of beer!

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  5. Anonymous12/12/2013

    If we Hebrews are truly the Alpha Tribe on this side of the River, we will do whatever it takes to delete thge colonial-invasionist Arabic language from our tribal space.

    Please note that I am not making ANY references to religious characteristics.

    Our Land had Christians living here 600 years before the Arabic language got here. And it was NOT indigenous Christians who started quarrels with the dat-Moshe people; it was the foreigner Greek christians.

    Our task is to restore indigenous conditions.

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  6. Anonymous3/23/2014

    I am a Palestinian Christian living in Taybeh and I agree with your post. What you must know however is that the so-called Taybeh Oktoberfest is not an event in which the people of Taybeh participate, whether as attendees, hosts, etc. This is largely a one man...I mean family...show. The people of Taybeh are intentionally left out of the picture altogether. The event does absolutely nothing in terms of "boosting the local economy" or "promoting Taybeh businesses" as the Khourys often recite to those who would listen. We do however incur the costs of clean up after the event each year which puts a heavy burden on a weak municipality which is already strapped for cash and is barely alive.

    David Khoury was the former mayor of Taybeh...for 8 years no less...on account of the PA government freezing all elections until they could hammer out a national plan that units all the parties (we still don't have a unified government an the legislative council is still MIA. Most current policies are deployed through Abbas' "presidential decrees" or by one of his un-elected cronies). Khoury leveraged his role as the mayor of Taybeh to boost his family's business, led by his brother Nadim, at the expense of Taybeh's common folk.

    As for why the Taybeh Oktoberfest wasn't held in Taybeh last year? Well it was because the municipality had the nerve to ask the organizers of the festival to cover rental and clean up costs for the event on municipal land since they were tired of footing the bill every year and being forced to cut costs of more important civil services. Additionally, security was lax prior to moving the event to a Ramallah hotel. The organizers did very little to protect the properties of local villagers or to remove drunken violent attendees who damaged property, cars, or started fights. Of course these are things that are not mentioned in the media because no one has ever come to Taybeh to ask the people living here what they think of the event.

    Finally, most of the villagers do not hold the beer company in high regard. The Khourys are thoroughly corrupt and are exploiting the village and its people for their own wealth. As far as drinking Taybeh beer, many of us don't even buy or drink it. The more popular brands here are your usual mainstream beers with Heineken taking the top spot.

    By the way, Maria Khoury is the wife of former mayor David Khoury and she is also the primary PR/Marketing brain behind the event and the company. She is also a well-documented extremist in terms of her religious beliefs. Many of us in Taybeh are sick of her hateful falsehoods. Sadly, all you have to do is Google her and you'll see that she digs her claws into every available channel to recite her tired nonsense. Its sickening and frankly it gives us, the people of Taybeh, a very bad name. Taybeh is a biblical village. It has been around for centuries. It is the home of ancient ruins that date back thousands of years but does anyone know that? No. We've been reduced to "that town that makes the beer."

    On a final note, let me say that I know that our two sides are locked in this perpetual conflict but I truly do hope that one day we can put aside our differences and live like neighbors. I wish you all peace.

    ~ Rami from Taybeh

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for your very interesting comments, Rami. There is always more going on beneath the surface than we are aware of. It's up to the people of Taybeh themselves to set their own agenda and decide what kind of a city they want to be. I also look forward to the day when we can live as neighbors and, as I wrote, if it's over a glass of beer, that would be even better.

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