Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Finest in the Middle East


A few days a go I signed a book contract for my novel "Inuit Underpants". Now I'm reediting it for publication and this means that a bottle is sitting beside my computer. For a long time, while I was not writing "literature", that spot on the desk was taken up by other things: documents, business cards, little tins full of mints. Journalistic writing does not tolerate drinking, but literary writing goes quite well with it.

Since I ran out of whisky the other day, tonight I must have do with beer from the fridge, but it's good beer: the "golden" variant of Taybeh, produced east of Ramallah. This is indeed, as the label states, the region's finest. Brewmaster Nadim Khoury studied with the Sam Adams crew in Boston, so there's an American microbrew twist to the flavor: a few more hops than your Israeli lager, an underlying sweetness and texture that is neither Belgianly heavy nor overly light.

I drink to peace and justice, brothers and sisters. This brewery is a wonderful example of why we need both. Fonuded in the early nineties, it thrived during that decade. Then, as the second intefada began, found itself secluded from the Israeli buyers and bereft of local clientele. Taybeh town, where the beer is produced, is the only heavily Christian community in the northern West Bank, the rest are primerily Muslim, and even had they not been, deteriorating economic conditions in Palestine made commodities like microbrewed beers a laughable concept. Foreign markets responded weakly, and getting the goods accross the great rift to Jordan and beyond became intolerably difficult due to movement restrictions imposed by Israel.

Good beer is beauty. Good beer is poetry. A shortage of good beer is one damage done by political conflict that I find hard to forgive. Nearly three years ago I attended a party in Jerusalem, a launch for Hebrew underground magazine "Dor Gimmel". Taybeh beer was served there and consumed to the sound of absolutely rocking Jewish klezmer music. That combination is how I want to see my country.

Since that night, Taybeh beer became for me a symbol of my political aspirations. The very existance of fine brew (not to mention an annual Oktoberfest celebration) in this beat and punishing landscape is a somewhat surreal testament to the ultimate triumph of humanity. I'm drinking Palestinian pride tonight, infused with hops and hope. I'm drinking what this place could be like. It tastes great and gives me inspiration.

7 comments:

homefris said...

some friends of mine made a short on taybeh production -- http://www.three-cities.org/pages/videos/palestinian-beer-new.php

lazy_n said...

Oktoberfest? What does celebrating the harvest has to do with this post?

3asl said...

CONGRATULATIONS. I am so sorry we didn't get to meet up, and though I am not in Sinai I feel I will be seeing you soon. Be well. Drink Taybeh.

Anonymous said...

Taybeh on tap at Sira pub in Jerusalem

Dor said...

Sorry mate, I don't buy the fuzzy feeling of peace on a beer that says "taste the revolution". As a contradiction there is a "Hebrew beer" in Boston. It says nothing about any subject that's not beer. When I read the post you chose and I see "taste the revolution" I cannot embrace your sentiments. This beer is made by someone who roots for those who believe in violence (revolution has blood taste, not hop bitter taste).

Yuval said...

Not precisely. "Taste the revolution" is not on the label, only on this poster I found online. I personally think the slogan is cute. There's no way to ignore "Palestinian beer" being a sort of oxymoron, and I feel that the poster treats that with humor.

More importantly, The brewery contributes part of its profits to organizations that promote peace and noneviolence among Israelis and Palestinians. This is exactly the point of my post: Normality is in everyone's interest and no one understands this better than business owners. How could such a business owner be blamed for promoting violence? That wouldn't make any sense.

Rahul said...

Congratulations on the book contract Yuv! And as for never picking the green candy, I tend to feel like the purple is always the killer.