The Grapes of Taybeh

As I woke up to heavy rain and severe wind storms in one of the highest mountain regions in Palestine, I gave glory to God  to be alive for another day and continue to keep my hope that all people of this region will learn to love humanity.  The only good thing about the dense fog in front of me is that I could not see the illegal Israeli settlement outside my kitchen window.  Settlements on the West Bank have been a huge big obstacle to any frozen peace agreement for twenty years between Israelis and Palestinians.  As the harsh weather and tough political conditions continue to be at an all-time high, I was grateful for friends around the world who prayed for a peaceful day (November 25th) during the opening of the new Taybeh Winery introducing for the first time, Palestinian boutique wines.  We were lucky the storm arrived at night after having a successful and historic making day with many local and international visitors.  All of our friends in America this week are preparing to celebrate a Happy Thanksgiving and we are thankful to simply have a peaceful day.  Glory be to God for all things!

As a collaborative celebration, the Belgian Consul General in Jerusalem selected our tiny village to celebrate for the first time in Palestine the King’s Day, a type of national day for Belgium traditionally held in Jerusalem  by the consulate every year during the fall with the actual birthday of King Philip being November 15th.  However, as more countries around the world are officially recognizing Palestine, we felt this decision to host the King’s Day celebration was a personal support and solidarity of our existence.  The Taybeh Golden Hotel, under construction for many years, finally opened its door to welcome many dignitaries including the Palestinian Prime Minister and the American Consul General in Jerusalem along with the ambassador of Turkey and Japan and many other leaders including the Greek Consul General as well.

The Taybeh Winery, on the street level of the eighty room hotel is a dream comes true for Nadim Khoury, the co-founder of Taybeh Brewing Company who is extremely proud of his son Canaan, a Harvard graduate, class of 2013.  Canaan returned home to Palestine to become the new winemaker and manage the winery following his dad’s footsteps in challenging times with Roberto, an Italian wine maker using all state of the art equipment from Italy.

The grapes from Taybeh and the surrounding towns of Aboud and Birzeit were crushed August 2013 and bottled for the opening in the “Nadim” label for Merlo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah.  “Nadim” in Arabic means “drinking companion;” what my brother-in-law thought is a perfect name for his new wine.  This last harvest, white grapes from Hebron were also crushed and will be bottled in February for what we expect to be a delicious Sauvignon Blanc.  The reserve wines are aging in French oak barrels and hopefully will be bottled just in time for Christmas.  Although the website and many things are still under construction, everyone felt it was a historic day in Taybeh with the Belgian celebration and the introduction of the new fine boutique Palestinian wines.

We are trying to do some good things under terrible conditions and reflect that Palestine has a civilization of culture, art, music and not only a great micro-brewed beer for twenty years but now a boutique wine too.  We were honored that some of the well-known Palestinian artists Nabil Anani and Tayser Barakat loaned their exquisite art to be displayed during the opening.

As Jesus blessed the water to wine in Cana more than two thousand years ago, I surely hope all the heavy rain will be a blessing for our water shortage.  As Fr. Louis from Birzeit Latin parish said, “Taybeh is the new Cana,” because it serves as a light in the region that has so much darkness today across the board, politically, emotionally, culturally, intellectually and even with tough weather conditions.  But it was a glorious day to have our parish priest, Fr. Daoud Khoury offer a prayer  in an ecumenical blessing with representatives from the Russian, Coptic Patriarchate and His Eminence Archbishop Aris Shirvanian from the Armenian Patriarchate with Archbishop Joseph-Jules Zerey from the Greek-Catholic Patriarchal Exarchate of Jerusalem.  Father Jack and Fr. Aziz, our local priests also gave us their blessing.  Pray with us for better times in Palestine so we can see the end of military occupation in our lifetime. However, in the meantime, Taybeh welcomes you not only for the Taybeh Beer tour which might include an interview with the only female who brews beer in Palestine, Madees Khoury but an eye opening experience at the Taybeh Winery also.  “Eye opening” because Palestinians are normal people like you and me.

The beautiful Bible verse in John (2:1-11) says that “ what Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and  his disciples believed in Him.”  We too, here on the ground in Palestine believe in miracles and hope the world will believe we are human as all people of the world.  And, the best is now coming from Taybeh.  “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Maria C. Khoury  is a graduate of Hellenic College, Harvard University & Boston University with a Doctor of Education degree. She lives in Taybeh, Palestine.