Zionist history in a wine glass

The guiding principle of Wine on the Vine is the planting of grapevines across Israel.

The Wine on the Vine crew poses at their event in Jerusalem last month. (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Wine on the Vine crew poses at their event in Jerusalem last month.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
What links wine, music, a well-known street artist and young Jewish professionals together? The answer is the Wine on the Vine and its umbrella organization The Israel Innovation Fund (TIIF) - who recently held an evening that brought all of these things together at Jerusalem’s Beit Alliance, located in Jerusalem’s new Cultural Quarter close to the Machane Yehuda market.
The guiding principle of Wine on the Vine is the planting of grapevines across Israel, rather than the more usual trees. Israel has planted more than 130 million trees over the last century - one of, if not the only, countries in the world to have a surfeit of trees - but it should not be forgotten that grapes have been grown here for millennia. As it says in Deuteronomy 8:7-8, “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive oil and honey.” So it seems natural that vines, which make up an indelible part of Israel’s agricultural heritage, should also now be focused on.
Adam Scott Bellos, TIIF founder and CEO, is strident in his belief that planting vines can be revolutionary. Just as planting trees was used to confer ownership of the land during the period of the early Aliyot of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and beyond, so now a new kind of Zionism requires extensive planting of vines. “Every Millennial today is stuck to their phone; [what we need is for people] to stand with their backs straight and eyes forward.” And Bellos clearly sees himself as the beneficent leader of a young and hungry new Zionist movement, but unlike the StartUp Nation, wedded as it is to high tech and innovation, this one is rooted in agriculture, soil and sweat.
It might seem strange to say that one of the other things that sets TIIF apart is that it is based in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It exudes a youthful vigor, more readily associated with Tel Aviv, but the decision to base itself at least partly outside of that milieu seems deliberate. The event was held on the same evening as layla lavan (White Night) in Tel Aviv, with Bellos contrasting it with a “golden evening in Jerusalem; history in a cup.” Boston-born TIIF Director of Outreach and Engagement, Tatiana Hasson, said “people do not really understand what Jerusalem is about.” Frequently told by peers that she ‘seems more like a Tel Aviv person,’ Hasson is more than at home in Israel’s capital. “In a cutting-edge way [Jerusalem] is connected to what Israel is about; and it shows that there is much more to the city than meets the eye,” she added.
One of the ways in which that cutting edge is expressed is through the works of TIIF’s artist-in-residence, Solomon Souza. For anyone who has taken an early morning walk in and around Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market and seen his designs on the shuttered shops, his style and artwork is instantly recognizable. In his short address to those gathered, Bellos exclaimed that Souza’s art had “revolutionized Jerusalem culture, creating a new vision of the city with the modern wallpaper of Zionism.”
Whatever one thinks of Souza’s chosen medium, this British-born graffiti artist is indubitably talented, and his skill adds color to an otherwise somewhat drab area. For Bellos, Souza’s art is a medium through which Jerusalem can speak a new and young language - one which reflects the creation of new stories and narratives. “Solomon Souza inspired me,” Bellos explained, “[as well as] a generation of Zionist art. But he is not the only person to have changed Jerusalem - we are all doing it.”
And the wine? Several well-known wineries sent their produce to be enjoyed by the assembled guests. Tabor; Carmel; Psagot; Mare; Yatir and Tulip were all represented, with a wide array of red, white and rose wines. The TIIF model is an alluring one - bringing together like-minded people with a shared love of wine, music, art, culture and Jerusalem. I’ll raise a glass to that.