Rebooting Zionism with wine and weed

The new Israel Innovation Fund is looking at how philanthropic support of Israel can be cultivated from a 21st-century perspective.

January 17, 2018 10:07
3 minute read.

Wine. (photo credit: INGIMAGE)


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When a computer malfunctions, sometimes all you gotta do is give it a quick reboot. That is the take of Adam Bellos, CEO of The Israel Innovation Fund, on how Jews around the world should support the Jewish state. But, for some reason, they’ve continued to work from a 20th-century playbook to tackle 21st-century problems.

So what is one to do? Start over, of course.

“When we say rebooting, it’s a way of starting over and modernizing it. We’re 21st-century young adults who believe in Israel, not late 19th-century romantics,” Bellos said on Sunday.

“Zionism has begun to sound outdated and political. By rebooting Zionism and focusing on the cultural aspects of it – its innovative and entrepreneurial spirit – we can tap into the younger generation of Jews who don’t connect to their parents’ version of Zionism,” Tatiana Hasson, The Israel Innovation Fund’s director of engagement and outreach, added.

TIIF executes its vision by highlighting cultural initiatives – film, art and wine – and showing how they can enhance the Zionist enterprise.

For example, the NGO’s first foray into film, a documentary titled Holy Land, Holy Plant, looks at Israel’s breakthrough in the medical marijuana realm. Once completed, the organization hopes to enter the film into the prestigious Sundance Film Festival.

Their flagship initiative, however, is Wine on the Vine. The concept is a simple one – individuals or groups buy a vine in an Israeli vineyard. Instead of planting trees, Wine on the Vine hopes to entice culturally aware pro-Israel Jews, Christians and wine lovers of all backgrounds to invest in the Land of Israel through its booming wine industry.

So far, the vineyards that have partnered up with the initiative include the Psagot, Yatir, Gush Etzion, Carmel, Tabor and Tulip wineries.

And anyone who understands the wine scene in Israel would notice immediately that the locations of these vineyards are as diverse as the demographic makeup of the State of Israel itself.

From Arad to the West Bank, to Kfar Tikva near Haifa, wine lovers can choose what kind of Israel they choose to support: One that acknowledges its settlement enterprise and one that does not.

For the staff of TIIF, however, the choice to partner up with wineries is strictly apolitical.

“We have to like the wine. The wineries that we work with immediately understood what we are trying to do and said they are with us no questions asked,” Bellos said, explaining TIIF’s criteria for selecting partners.

“If you stay within or go over the Green Line, it’s all political. We are working with people who want to work with us, and they can choose where they want to plant the vine. We don’t want to make a political statement. We’re just looking at where the wine is,” Bellos said.

TIIF’s director of What if? Studios, Osher Etz Haim, is a personal fan of Tulip.

“Tulip is the best winery in Israel. They don’t just produce good wines, they do good for society, and they expose this goodness of Israel to the outside world,” he said of the winery, whose profits go to people with special needs.

For Michael Hilkowitz, TIIF’S chief content officer, the Israel that constantly had to look over its shoulder for fear of annihilation is a thing of the past. Today, he believes, Israel should focus on what Zionism has to offer the rest of the world.

“Israel is not about securing our physical future, but our prosperous future. The more we can share the fruits of Zionism, the more we can develop true friends in the world.

It’ll be a lot more effective than the anti- BDS campaigns and the government put together,” he said.

TIIF will celebrate its official launch in Tel Aviv Thursday with events at the aforementioned vineyards and an auction off paintings and photographs by Solomon Souza, Ethan Dor-Shav, and Aviram Valdman, who are all affiliated with the organization.

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