I recently attended a beer festival at Taybeh, an all-Christian Palestinian village in Ramallah. The village has about 1, 500 people. Taybeh is an historical city that has changed hands several times – from the natives to the crusaders to Saladin to Ottoman Empire to the British, to Jordan, and to Israeli Occupation Army. It is believed that Jesus retired to this city after resurrecting Lazarus. It was a place of safety far away from the Pharisees who wanted him dead. I counted about three ancient churches including St. George Church, which was built in the 5th century.
Taybeh festival is more than a beer event; it is a reconstruction of Palestinian cultural image in an effort to maintain the relationship to the land and a sense of hominess in the face of the Israeli physical isolation of Palestinians. The brewery was founded in 1995 by David Khoury who was buoyed by the wave of optimism that followed the signing of the Oslo accords. This is an indication that a peace agreement can potentially bring more investments in Palestine. Palestinians in the diaspora will be more than happy to return to the homeland and develop their economy.
This brewery that has made the city famous and attracted many tourists is surrounded by Muslim villages that abhor alcohol consumption. The brewery owners are cautious not to offend the Muslims. Thus, we were requested to not to carry beers beyond the gates of the factory because villagers do not want to see people drinking alcohol.
I noticed that the event attracted many people especially foreigners and Arab Christians. There were people even from the US embassy. To me Taybeh project represents the unlimited economic activities Palestinians can engage in if they were allowed to. One of the reasons why Palestinians are suffering is their lack of economic opportunities.