Taybeh, a Christian village in the West Bank, celebrated its 11th Oktoberfest on the September 24 and 25. The event, which draws thousands of Palestinians and foreigners every year, is a unique occurrence in the Palestinian Territories, where most Muslims eschew alcohol. Here’s a primer on the West Bank beer festival:
The festival is sponsored by the Taybeh Brewing Company, which was started in 1994 by Palestinian businessman Nadim Khoury as a way to build the Palestinian economy in the optimistic period after the Oslo Accords.
Taybeh’s beers, which come in six styles, are sipped in bars in the West Bank, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. Several bars in Israel — most with a left-leaning Jewish and Arab clientele — also serve Taybeh.
The festival was originally held in the village center, but in recent years village officials have deemed the event too raucous to be held in the public square. This year Oktoberfest was held in the pavilion near the Khoury family home and factory.
The 2016 festival included vendors who sold locally-made honey, puppets and Palestinian embroidery. There was also chicken and beef shawarma, falafel and Beit Jala-made pork sausages, another West Bank rarity. There were also jugglers, dancers and hip hop artists, and a miniature climbing wall.
Taybeh buys malt from Belgium and bottles from Portugal. Because Israel controls the West Bank borders, the products can face delays depending on the political situation. Canaan Khoury, the son of Nadim Khoury and the company’s engineer, began a winery with the mission of creating a completely locally-sourced product in order to sidestep Israeli restrictions. He named the wine line Nadim, after his father.
Both Canaan and Nadim Khoury studied brewing at the University of California, Davis with legendary brewmaster Michael Lewis.
Naomi Zeveloff is the former Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
Palestinian Oktoberfest Offers the West Bank in a Beer Glass