‘Ha­lal beer pro­tects us from Ha­mas’

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY BEN LYN­FIELD TAY­BEH

THE HUN­DREDS who flocked to the fourth an­nual Ok­to­ber­fest in Tay­beh, near Ra­mal­lah, had a choice: the epony­mous golden draught beer read­ily avail­able at dis­count prices, or a non­al­co­holic al­ter­na­tive.

This al­co­hol-free bev­er­age was “ha­lal” beer, ac­cord­ing to the ap­pro­pri­ately green (the colour of Is­lam) la­bel on the bot­tle.

But it was the booze that was most pop­u­lar at this event, aimed as much at boost­ingth­es­pir­it­soft­hed­win­dlin­glo­cal Chris­tian­com­mu­nityasat­pro­mot­ingthe Tay­be­hBrew­ingCom­pany,itsspon­sor.

Pressed be­tween Is­raeli oc­cu­pa­tion, the grow­ing power of Ha­mas and eco­nomic down­turn, Tay­beh, with only 1,200 res­i­dents, is los­ing scores of its young peo­ple to em­i­gra­tion each year, mostly to the United States.

“This is the only purely Chris­tian vil­lage in Pales­tine, peo­ple here do not sell their prop­erty to peo­ple of other re­li­gions or even rent,” boasts Mary Michael, a teacher. “This fes­ti­val lets the world know the vil­lage of Tay­beh is on the map and all th­ese vis­i­tors give us the feel­ing we are not so iso­lated.”

The brew­ery launched in 1995 when owner Nadim Khoury, in­flu­enced by mi­cro­brew­eries in Bos­ton, where he at- tended uni­ver­sity, de­cided to put Pales­tine on the in­ter­na­tional bev­er­age map for pa­tri­o­tism and profit. The com­pany sells 30 per cent of its beer to Is­rael, in­clud­ing to pubs in Tel Aviv. The main for­eign mar­kets are Ger­many and Ja­pan.

But the malty non-al­co­holic brew is for do­mes­tic con­sump­tion. It marks the com­pany’s adap­ta­tion to the re­al­ity of the grow­ing power of Ha­mas, ac­cord­ing to Maria Khoury, Nadim’s sis­ter and the or­gan­iser of the Ok­to­ber­fest. “We want to pro­tect our­selves and stay here in case there are any harsh rules rul­ing al­co­hol out,” she says.

Ms Michael said that some res­i­dents are wor­ried they could feel the pinch if Ha­mas gains con­trol in the West Bank as it did in Gaza in June 2007. “Peo­ple are say­ing that they would force us to wear scarves and that maybe we won’t be able to ring the church bells. But maybe they will do noth­ing.”

At the fes­ti­val, a Bavar­ian mu­sic group dressed in tra­di­tional shorts and hats al­ter­nated with young Pales­tini­ans per­form­ing folk dances.

Many in the crowd were cler­ics from other parts of the Holy Land. Fa­ther Jones Irage­sen, a Ger­man Bene­dic­tine monk from Dor­mi­tion Abbey in Jerusalem was ac­com­pa­nied by four other monks. “This is my first and last beer be­cause I am the driver,” he said.

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