Yes, that’s right. Beer as resistance. The Palestinian Taybeh Beer is the first micro-beer brewery in the Middle East. Taybeh Beer seeks to be a message of peace in Israeli-occupied territory by stimulating the local economy. I spoke with Nadim Khoury, since 1994 one of the proud founders of the Taybeh brewery. Notwithstanding the many trials and tribulations the brewery has gone through due to the occupation, Taybeh has succeeded making a name for itself internationally as a unique, hand-crafted Palestinian beer.
In the West Bank, about 12 kilometres from the predominantly Christian village of Taybeh (Arabic for wonderful) is the brewery. “Brewing beer here in Palestine is not like brewing beer anywhere else in the world,” says Nadim. There are a number of reasons for this. Since consuming alcohol is forbidden in Islam, brewing beer in a society where most people are Muslim is controversial. Laws governing the West Bank can also be a hindrance. For instance, the Palestinian authority does not allow the advertising of alcoholic beverages. In a number of Palestinian cities such as Hebron, it is forbidden to sell alcohol. Even though Taybeh is a Christian village, the beer brewery must also abide by these laws.
A mammoth task
Aside from challenges on the Palestinian side, the Israeli occupation and wall separating the West Bank from Israel also do not make things any easier. The borders of the West Bank are controlled by Israel, and there is no airport or harbour. The materials needed to make Taybeh beer are imported from Europe – getting them to the brewery is a mammoth task. Nadim must get one permit from the Palestinian Authority, and another from Israel. “At the moment, we also have a major problem with water. The settlements are allocated more water than we Palestinians, so we never have enough. There´s a de facto water war going on.” Nonetheless, Nadim is optimistic about Taybeh Beer. “We’ve gotten used to the system. The obstacles don’t go away but we’ve learned to work around them. We may not have our own country, but we do have our own beer, and we’re proud of that!”
Since it was founded in 1994, the Taybeh brewery has played a major role in reinvigorating the local economy, which had more or less collapsed. “The Taybeh Brewery created a chain of benefits for local business. For instance, our cars use petrol from the local petrol stations and our taxes pay the local civil servants’ salaries. This kind of economic knock-on effect will eventually also help the State of Palestine to develop.”
That the Taybeh economy is doing so well is largely thanks to the growing international demand for Taybeh Beer. According to Nadim, the Palestinian beer does particularly well in Denmark and Japan, but it’s also available in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Italy and the United States. Soon it will also be sold in Finland. It is not yet available in the Netherlands, but Nadim is looking for a European distributor, so it may be available here in the future.
Taybeh even organizes an annual Palestinian Octoberfest. Along with the festive anti-occupation sentiment, the two-day party also benefits the local economy by promoting local products and encouraging tourism. People come from all over. “Everyone is welcome, all the visitors to Octoberfest are our supporters. Israelis are also welcome. For two days, we get together and enjoy music, dance, food, and, of course, beer. We want to show the world that we Palestinians are just regular people.”
This week marks 50 years since Israel occupied the Palestinian territories and the Golan Heights. Taybeh beer demonstrates Palestinian resilience. To mark 50 years of occupation, PAX is organizing a workshop in Amsterdam as part of the enough=enough campaign. Read about PAX’s work in Palestine and Israel.