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Taybeh Oktoberfest in Palestine

by MARIA C. KHOURY

Everything related to Taybeh is extremely revolutionary if not extraordinary in the last few years. In the middle of intense violence and conflict you find a community striving to be normal and trying to cry out to the world for the need to do astonishing things like festivals in the middle of oppressed conditions like complete closure and Israeli occupation. In response to harsh conditions, Taybeh responds with peaceful resolutions of celebrating its existence to boost the economy and hosted the first and only Oktoberfest that had ever taken place in Palestine (1995). Following a very successful two day celebration of support for Palestinian products made in Taybeh, the Oktoberfest has become an annual event under the umbrella of the Taybeh Municipality with all of its local civic organization and organized by the Taybeh Brewing Company as the initiator of the incredible event. The Oktoberfest story is really a reflection of how private sector can positively influence and boost the Palestinian economy. However, what people need to understand is that the backbone of every economy is the private sector.

Trying to stay a beaming light in Palestine, Taybeh Beer, came into the market following what now is the very collapsed Oslo Agreement in the early 90’s but what was at that time a very promising era of making peace and building an economy. Taybeh Beer began in a time when although waiting at a checkpoint for four or five hours meant eventually a product from the West Bank could enter Israel. And surely if not today there is always a chance to return to the brewery and start the whole wait again to make it to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv the next day according to the whim of the Israeli security. Forget going from a Palestinian point to another Palestinian point, e.g, Taybeh to Ramallah or Taybeh to Bethlehem, you will imagine you are going from the earth to the moon with the hundreds of checkpoints that exist within the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Really it’s an outrage and one wonders what is next on the list of challenges for small companies to survive. However, after the Apartheid Wall was completely built, the rules and regulations of moving around Palestinian products have gotten stricter.

The Israeli security has shut down all the checkpoints except for Betunia (Ofer commercial crossing) to enter the Israeli market. No wonder everyone else closed up shop and went back where they were doing business before the Oslo Agreement. This complete strangulation of Palestinian products entering the Israeli market is hurting the private sector in Palestine.

On the contrary, the Ramallah markets are flooded with Israeli beer, ice cream, yogurt, chips and anything and everything that can enter any point into Palestine without wait or delay. The biggest challenge to Taybeh Beer is that it currently became illegal to take a barrel of Taybeh Beer into Jerusalem to have on draft since the security machinery is not available at Betunia Checkpoint (Offer commercial crossing) to screen if the Taybeh Beer is a security threat to Israel. Nothing precarious in there guys! Just pure, natural, great beer. No preservatives. No additives. On the other hand, this is a sure threat to the Israeli market that Palestinians are competent and capable of making great products but how can they be when in the eyes of the world they are constantly marketed as “terrorists.” This is the new challenge in the private sector when you have achieved excellence in Palestine how then can you share it with the world when you are on the wrong side of the Wall?

Taybeh Beer is not your ordinary product. It’s an extraordinary product not only because it is an alcoholic beverage but it challenges all Palestinian companies to look at Taybeh Beer as an ultimate role model of distinction in Palestine. Since 1995, when it entered the Palestinian and Israeli market line, Taybeh Beer, has maintained an image of premium quality that can only be found with the thinking that if Palestinians can have a country and freedom, we too can make outstanding products like Europe, like the West but simply we have been oppressed through the years in participating in this ultimate capacity.

The master brewer, Nadim Canaan Khoury, brews Taybeh Beer for beer lovers no matter what their religion, culture or ethnic background happen to be. If you love beer, you need to select Taybeh, since it’s simply the, Finest in the Middle East, as claimed on its label. Nadim is so proud of what he produces that he clearly places his signature on each and every bottle that makes it through the state of the art bottling line.

This year for the first time in the history of Palestine, also a female Brewster, Nadim’s daughter, Madees Khoury has joined the family business after graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business from Hellenic College (2007) and actually gets up at 5 a.m. to brew that extraordinary Palestinian product that simply reflects democracy and freedom in Palestine. But with all the difficulties in getting Taybeh Beer on the other side of the Wall, maybe this revolutionary idea of inviting everyone to Taybeh is not such a crazy concept after all. If you come to Taybeh, sitting on one of the highest mountain regions in Palestine you might feel the hospitality and warmth that Saladin must have felt in the late 12th century when he called the people “Taybeen,” actually initiating the name change from the Biblical Ephraim to Taybeh for this tiny place in Biblical Judea. We welcome you to join us for a day of Taybeh Beer, food, fun while you listen to G-Town Rappers, Zaman Gypsy Music, Jadal Band from Bethlehem and see Sarab For Dance, Ramallah Orthodox Club Folklore and many local Dabkeh groups or hear Al Kamandjati Music at the opening celebration.

MARIA C. KHOURY has served as the festival coordinator for the Taybeh Oktoberfest for four years including the Oktoberfest, October 11 & 12, 2008 in Taybeh- Ramallah.

 

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