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.