Bottoms up: Israeli lawmakers taste West Bank wine in Knesset

Land of Israel Caucus promotes new wine guide, after another book boycotted West Bank wineries.

December 28, 2015 17:20
3 minute read.
West Bank wine tasting at Knesset, December 28, 2015

West Bank wine tasting at Knesset, December 28, 2015. (photo credit: Lahav Harkov)

Anyone who’s interested in finding out where to get the best Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay in the West Bank, or how it compares to wine from other parts of Israel, will now find the information in a new edition of Israeli Wines – The Complete Wine Guide, launched at a wine tasting in the Knesset Land of Israel Caucus Monday.

Caucus chairmen MKs Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi) spearheaded the event in response to the publication of New Israeli Wine Guide earlier this month, whose authors, wine consultant Gal Zohar and Israel Hayom wine reporter Yair Gat, chose not to include wines from the West Bank, eliciting angry responses from politicians and vintners.

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The New Israeli Wine Guide did, however, list wines from the Golan Heights in the book, though the international community generally does not recognize Israel’s sovereignty in the area. A recent directive from the EU, which many politicians connected to Zohar and Gat’s decision, would require wines sold on the Continent that come from the West Bank, Golan Heights and east Jerusalem to be labeled as settlement products.

Israeli Wines – The Complete Wine Guide, is expected to be published by a competing publishing house, Yediot Books, and will include prize-winning wines from the West Bank.

Yediot Books CEO Dov Eichenwald explained that Kisch suggested that they publish a new edition of the book, whose first edition in 1997 already included a winery in Efrat.

“We are against boycotts, and we will republish the book together with its editor, Michael Ben-Yosef. It will take a lot of work; he will visit all the wineries and write about them... The book will come out in the next year,” Eichenwald announced.

Kisch explained that the event was meant to fix an “injustice, when politics were mixed in where it is not appropriate.”

The Likud MK said that, in fighting BDS, one must make sure that boycotts aren’t happening within Israel.

Smotrich pointed out that “Judea and Samaria and the Golan produced excellent wines for thousands of years, and in recent years, there was a great increase in the number of vineyards and wineries that win medals and international prizes.

“Only someone stupid would miss out on the joy of these wines because of delusional boycotts,” he added.

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein called boycotts “disgusting” and said Israel should be proud of its wines.

Edelstein said that, in this area, consumers have as much power as politicians, and called on people to do what he does and ask specifically for wines from the West Bank in restaurants and stores.

Education Minister Naftali Bennett praised the caucus and Eichenwald, saying: “The time has come to say the Land of Israel is ours and to move from strategic defense to taking initiative and gradually implementing sovereignty on the territories under control... with God’s help.”

Bennett also pointed out that the Torah mentions wines produced in the Land of Israel and praised vintners for reviving the tradition.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel spoke of “untapped potential” for growing grapes in the West Bank because of its climate, and wished for the wine to be served “at the Holy Temple, swiftly in our days, amen.”

Mostly right-wing MKs – from Likud, Bayit Yehudi and Yisrael Beytenu – attended the event, but Zionist Union MK Eitan Cabel also dropped in.

Cabel said he opposes boycotts, and that his favorite wine is from Tura, a winery in Rehelim, not far from Ariel.

MKs and guests at the event tasted wines from Psagot, Shiloh and Tura wineries and liqueurs from Lavie winery.

Vintners from other wineries grumbled that they that sought to present their wares but could not, because the Knesset rabbi would only allow mevushal wine, meaning wine that has been boiled and thus can still be kosher even if handled by a non-observant Jew or a gentile.

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