Tuesday, March 06, 2012

An anecdote about - beer

I mentioned yesterday that the Palestinian Arab company Taybeh Beer was featured at a major Israeli agriculture exhibition last week.

A resident of Ofra writes:
Taybe is located just a few kilometers from Ofra, and before Oslo, etc. we used to drive through it all the time. I still remember the narrow turn in the road near the school, with huge murals of Santa Claus on its walls along with other classic Christmas decorations. Taybe is a Christian town and consequently, its residents openly drink alcohol.

Before 2000 and the second intifada, the manufacturers of the beer asked the rabbi of Ofra, Rabbi Avi Giesser, to provide kashrut supervision for the beer so that it could be sold in Israeli supermarkets. For a few years, their label clearly stated: “Kosher under the supervision of Rabbi Avraham Geisser.”

I kid you not.
The kosher certification happened in 1996, as AP reported:
It's cool, it's Palestinian, and now it's kosher.

Taybeh Beer, the first Palestinian beer, has received a rabbinical stamp of approval, brewer Nadim Khoury said Tuesday.

``It was easy to do it because my beer is kosher, and now it's officially kosher,'' Khoury told The Associated Press.

``The rabbi came and inspected it, and everything was fine.''

Khoury has been brewing in Taybeh, a village near the West Bank city of Ramallah, since last year. It is already sold in many bars and stores in Israel, as well as in the West Bank.

Kosher certification will open up new markets in Israel, where many restaurants, hotels and grocery stores serve only kosher products.

The micro-brewery was inspected by Rabbi Avraham Gisser of the nearby Jewish settlement Ofra, who checked for contamination by any non-kosher ingredients.

Khoury refused to say whether his beer is more popular among Palestinians or Israelis.

``My market is local beer for the local people everywhere,'' he said. ``Beer has nothing to do with politics.''
Well, that is not quite true. Taybeh's slogan is "Drink Palestinian. Taste the Revolution."

And it is not exactly an empty slogan.

Taybeh billboards with the slogan "Drink Palestinian — Taste the Revolution" tower over the main street of Ramallah. "Taybeh beer is our way of struggling," Madees Khoury tells TIME. "This is our resistance to the occupation — just to make beer and make people happy."

But when advertising to Western audiences, Taybeh offers a different message - "Drink to Peace":

Yet at the same time It also manufactures a non-alcoholic version, with only Arabic written on a green bottle, that is colloquially called "Hamas Beer."

Perhaps the biggest indicator that things have gone downhill since the intifada is this:
Up until the year 2000, Taybeh Beer was sold to Jewish residents in the West Bank, and to Israeli soldiers. The beer even used to have a kosher certificate, but Khoury said the license was not renewed after 2000 because it became increasingly difficult for the rabbinate to send supervisors to a brewery in the West Bank. The beer is still kosher, he insists, but it does not have the rabbinate’s stamp of approval.
“I don’t think any rabbi has the guts to come to the brewery right now,” he said.