Border firefights threaten winery's entire harvest

Moshe Haviv ended his long military career two years ago, but in his opinion he is still a warrior on Israel's front line. "The battle is also for the economy," he said on Thursday while dull thuds could be heard from the ongoing battle just two kilometers away, over the Lebanese border near Moshav Avivim, "If people won't be able to make a good living here, and if people won't be able to drink wine, they will have less reason to live here and I am fighting for that. The economy is what makes us strong." Haviv is CEO of the Dalton Winery, the only business still operating - just barely - in the area near the border. This was supposed to be a special year for the winery, which has already established itself as one of the foremost producers of quality wine in Israel. Its 10th anniversary was to be marked by special releases of wine, a record output of 750,000 bottles and ambitious plans for the future. Instead, Haviv estimates that the winery will lose NIS 1 million this month - and, worse, he is now contemplating the loss of an entire harvest. The grapes of 2006 are due to be picked in less than a month, but now, when the vines are in need of the utmost attention, the vintners who tend 750 dunams cannot go out into the vineyards. On Friday, a Katyusha rocket landed in one of Dalton's vineyards near Sasa and a dunam of vines were burnt. "This winery was built with a lot of effort - first of all, in order to supply employment for families in the area. It's not only the 15 employees who actually work here, but the 50 families around here who grow the grapes," Haviv said. Haviv woke up on Thursday morning to find a fragment of a Katyusha outside his door in nearby Karmiel. "I am going to keep on coming here every day, no matter what. This our war, and together with the rest of the employees, we will fight to make sure that the wine reaches the market." Shipments of Chardonnay and Shiraz wine are waiting in the storage area for the trucks that will take them to the supermarkets and the airport. "We can't stop shipping wine," he said. "There is a battle for every space on the supermarket shelf and in the shipping containers; if we won't be there, someone else will. The only problem is that now half my workers have left with their families in fear of the Katyushas and some of the others have been called up to reserve duty." The area has been under fire ever since the current wave of bombings began last week, but since Wednesday the winery's environs have been saturated with over a hundred Katyushas. The ongoing battle near Avivim was clearly visible from the winery's roof. "It was like hell," described Haviv. "You could see everything: the rockets coming over from Hizbullah and our artillery, tanks and helicopters giving everything they've got. I had to tell the workers to go home."