Friday, September 25, 2020

The Taybeh Oktoberfest moves to Ramallah

Juicebox Gallery

By Ben H. - October 10, 2013
Section: [Main News] [Culture]
Tags: [Taybeh Oktoberfest ] [Taybeh Beer]

Photos by Eugene Peress and Vivian Calle.


As a student at Hellenic College in Boston, Nadim Khoury brewed beer in his apartment with a small home brewing kit.  During the summers, when he had to come back to his hometown of Taybeh in order to maintain his Palestinian identity number, he brought the brew kit with him, keeping up the hobby in his native land.

Now, Nadim and his family run the Taybeh Brewing Company, the only brewery in Palestine. The brewery produces upwards of 600,000 liters of beer every year, employs 15 people from Taybeh and the surrounding villages, and has hosted an annual Oktoberfest celebration for the past nine consecutive years. Each year, thousands of Palestinians and internationals flock to the small village for two days full of  local music, food vendors and crafts, and of course, the local brew. Almost 16,000 people attended the Oktoberfest in 2010. 
This year, however, the Taybeh municipality declined to host the Oktoberfest celebration over concerns about the consumption of alcohol, the logistics of the large event, and the feeling that the town did not profit sufficiently from the festival in previous years.  Instead, this year’s Oktoberfest was moved to a luxury hotel in Ramallah, which had asked several years ago to host an Oktoberfest if it were to ever leave Taybeh.
Maria Khoury, Nadim’s sister-in-law and the organizer of the Oktoberfest celebration, says that many of Taybeh’s merchants were frustrated by the town’s decision not to host the event.  She insists that the festival provides economic stimulus to the town that was missed this year.  In spite of this, she says, the merchants elected not to come to Ramallah for the event, because they “didn’t want to offend the municipality.”
The Oktoberfest celebration isn’t the only way that the Taybeh Brewery seeks to aid the town’s economy.  The brewery uses its export license, which are often difficult for Palestinians to obtain, to help local farmers sell their olive oil.  They also provide barley, which is used in the brewing process, as feed for farm animals.
Nadim says he sees brewing Taybeh beer as an act of peaceful resistance and a source of pride for Palestinians.  “It adds a touch of normality to Palestine to have our own beer,” he says.  “We may not have a country, but we have our own beer.”
At the same time, Taybeh--which sits on a hill at the highest point in Palestine, 950 meters above sea level--is surrounded by Israeli settlements and adjacent to an IDF radar outpost. “They talk about freezing the settlements,” Maria says, “but in front of our eyes we see more houses going up every day.”
Furthermore, the travel restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation often make business difficult for Taybeh.  “We’ve lost a lot of business not being able to deliver,” Maria says.  Long delays at checkpoints can be disastrous for the brewery’s beer shipments, as the shipments often grow too warm in the sun during the wait and spoil.  In addition, uncertainty as to when and for how long a shipment might be held up en route makes determining exact delivery times almost impossible.
Still, Maria is hopeful that things can change for Palestine, and believes that Taybeh can be a part of that change. “Taybeh beer means everything to us; it’s more than just beer,” she says.  “It gives us hope that one day we’ll be a free people.”

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