Taybeh More than just a beer mecca
Every September the village of Taybeh outside of Ramallah becomes a magnet for many from Palestine and around the world. For the fifteenth time since its inception, the Taybeh Brewing Company has been putting up what it calls the Taybeh Oktoberfest festival.
“Oktoberfest is more than just promoting our natural beer and new Palestinian boutique wines, we are trying to promote our culture and heritage,” proclaims Maria Khoury wife of one of two co-owners of the brewery whose name has been known throughout the world for its home-brewed alcoholic drink. Taybeh which means kind, good, and delicious in Arabic gives visitors to this Palestinian Christian village a stereotype-busting meaning.
Max, a twenty-something French man, walked for nine months to be in the Holy Land. He says that he came to Palestine for spiritual reasons and has found himself volunteering to pour Taybeh draft beer from a keg and contributing to make the 15th Taybeh Oktoberfest a resounding success. Not only has Taybeh beer become a well-known brand in the region and around the world, but the owners have developed the first Palestinian boutique family-owned Taybeh Winery (2013) producing the Nadim wine and have added various herbal flavors to their classic Taybeh beer, notes brewmaster Nadim Khoury.
The four-star Taybeh Golden Hotel with amazing modern Palestinian artists like Suleiman Mansour, Nabil Anani and Tayseer Barakat exhibiting their art has also been established and is doing well according to Daoud Khoury, co-owner of the Taybeh Group. Attendees from all over Palestine and from the Galilee, both Muslim and Christian intermingled and were having a good time. Foreign youth was also noticeable as was a strong female presence was noted and when asked they all said that they felt safe at the festival.
But the success of the Palestinian beer and the thousands who come annually to their two-day festival have not gone unnoticed by those who are angry with Palestinian efforts to boycott settler products. Shortly after Canada announced that it will not accept wine made in the settlement of Psagot in the occupied West Bank as being made in Israel, the Canadian customs department has put a hold on a shipment of Taybeh Beer until they can ascertain that it is not from a settlement. The Khoury's and their lawyers and supporters laugh at the claim saying that it is a ploy by supporters of the settlers to take revenge at the Palestinian company by delaying the distributions of their Palestinian made product.
While the Taybeh Oktoberfest was being planned, a small problem appeared. Members of the Taybeh Municipality took advantage of the absence of the mayor (who is the brother in law of the Khoury’s) and they issued a strong letter of protest against the festival. “They wrote to the minister of municipal affairs complaining about the unauthorized use of the name Taybeh,” said Daoud Khoury. Khoury who was a mayor for eight years complained to Palestinian officials in Ramallah who immediately came to the rescue declaring total support to the festival and making sure that the Palestinian police provide adequate protection for it, Daoud Khoury said.
In addition to the external protection from the Palestinian police, the Taybeh Brewery owners, paid for 30 local security personnel to guard the visitors inside the festival grounds.
On opening day, Maria proudly noted 35 heads of diplomatic missions, ambassadors, consul generals, and other international dignitaries attended. The main music gig was done by a well-known Jordanian singer Tony Kattan who entertained the thousands of large standing room only crowd. New talent in alternative music was introduced with Elie Kawas (Elos Byuri) from Ramallah,
The Taybeh Oktoberfest is much more than a drinking event. Cultural cubical, artworks and a variety of food stalls were set up to provide the visitors with an assortment of Palestinian life. A special program for children during the day time featured music, face painting, and Muppets performing.
A Hungarian embroidery exhibit entitled “Where Hungary Meets Palestine is scheduled to continue until October 15th at the Taybeh Golden Hotel. Austrian and Hungarian Musicians on stage with Palestinian musicians reflected a musical cultural exchange.
The idea of the festival began in 2005, says Maria Khoury. “Initially we established the theme “Support local products “with the first Oktoberfest. With the 50 percent unemployment during the Second intifada at that time we told our friends from the diplomatic community to come to Taybeh for a glass of beer and please buy the things the locals make. It was such a successful win-win event we continue to do it until this day.”