|Taybeh village Photo by Cristina Ruiz Cortina.|
Promoting Taybeh with God’s Humour
By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
I am sitting in the middle of the wilderness, and most days, I am sincerely happy that the whole world is willing to come to me. I clearly have nothing to do with this fame, since my brother-in-law, Nadim Khoury, has worked extraordinarily hard since the early 1990’s to make one of the best products in Palestine. People from all over the world want to come and see how we make this great micro-brewed beer-the only micro brew beer in the whole Middle East-Taybeh Beer. Most times I am thinking we are absolutely crazy to stay in the highest mountain region of Palestine, especially when we have all of the illegal Israeli settlements closing in on Taybeh and preparing a greater Israel. Sometimes there is no electricity, other times, no running water and every once in a while, an army invasion. But there is something amazing happening here in Biblical Judea, where Judea is ending and Samaria begins. With God’s help we are still making, as every bottle declares, “The Finest Beer in the Middle East.” This is our peaceful resistance.
On one level, it must be God expressing his humour by making it possible for a minority Christian family to exist among a 98% Muslim population, as we package a product that the majority are forbidden to drink by the Qur’an. And what is interesting about God is that He has granted much strength and blessings to survive harsh conditions of occupation, closure of roads, and daily economic obstacles, along with all of the other usual checkpoint problems. Due to additional policies enforced by the Israeli occupation, in order to deliver Taybeh Beer to Jerusalem-which is technically only 25 minutes away from the brewery-we are now required to go three hours out of the way to a designated commercial checkpoint with a specialised scanner. With gas on this side of the world costing approximately four times more than in the West, this is an effective way to put people out of business. So day by day, we are beginning to feel we are a terrible threat to Israel. We focus and concentrate on creating an excellent product in Palestine so people can select Palestinian products and help keep Palestinians employed. This is an entirely different threat to Israel since they like to keep the Palestinian market flooded with Israeli products, whether they are beer, ice cream, milk, or chips. Palestinian people suffer from lack of patriotism and they are very divided in their opinions, so supporting local products is not a top priority. However, in the last fifteen years of making premium quality beer, we have made some progress in conquering the market share and we do our best to promote pride in Palestine.
I am thinking that God has a sense of humour since He allows bringing awareness to the small Christian community in Palestine through the making of beer. People come from all corners of the world to get a Taybeh Beer tour, and at the end, they realize our village has been Christian for two thousand years since Christ’s visit. We are the only all-Christian village that is left in Palestine. How sad. Where have the rest of the Christians gone? I guess to better places like the USA, Australia, Europe, South America and anywhere they can give a better life to their children. Thus, we have people come for the beer and they leave with a message of love. The message is simple, but so hard to implement: love thy neighbour and love thy enemy is the bottom line. At least people understand that we simply want to have the freedom to be who we are and to make beer for beer lovers. Freedom, justice, and peace allow for all religions, all people, all colours, and all ethnic groups to co-exist.
For the past six years, we have welcomed thousands of Christians, Muslims and Jews to our annual Taybeh Oktoberfest, making it the largest gathering in our region. Taybeh has reflected peaceful resistance by making extraordinary efforts to do ordinary things, like celebrating life. Living in an environment of not knowing what will happen day to day, the success of the festival is simply that it takes place and that it’s peaceful.
Taybeh Oktoberfest has become one of the distinctive festivals in Palestine, and people travel from Brazil, Japan, and Europe to perform and express their solidarity. We have made huge efforts to put Taybeh on the map since Israel is very effective in its efforts to wipe us off of it. We want to inspire people to travel to the Holy Land and see with their own eyes what is happening. If you do not think that Palestinians are practicing non-violent action, please know that millions of us are trying every day to do ordinary things like work, go to school, and have a party. We view this as non-violent action to the awful conditions we experience under occupation.
Come and support our local products and be part of the seventh annual Taybeh Oktoberfest, October 1 & 2, 2011. Taybeh is waiting for you! When you visit Taybeh, you will also understand God’s humour.
Maria Khoury is the author of Christina Goes to the Holy Land and Witness in the Holy Land. She has organized six successful village festivals while her husband, David Canaan Khoury, served as mayor of Taybeh.