Speed Reads


Palestine's West Bank has its own Oktoberfest

Lots of cities and towns have their own Oktoberfest. The original and most famous is in Munich, but there are offshoots everywhere from Blumenau, Brazil, to Bangalore, India, and many points in between — lots of them in the U.S. The strangest Oktoberfest, though, may be the one in Taybeh, a village of about 1,500 in the Palestinian West Bank.

Taybeh, a Christian enclave in the predominantly Muslim occupied territories, is home to the only Palestinian brewery, the Taybeh Brewing Co. With the exception of this year — the event, scheduled for mid-September, was "postponed until further notice" due to all the deaths in Gaza from its recent war with Israel — Taybeh has held its own Oktoberfest every year since 2005, when David Khoury — the brother of brewery owner and master brewer Nadim Khoury — was elected mayor of the hillside town.

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The celebration of fall and beer typically attracts a lot of people — about 16,000 in 2012 — but most of Taybeh's customers are Palestinian Muslims, says Khaled Diab at Britain's The Guardian. Islam forbids the drinking of alcohol, Diab explained, though there were "doubts, in the days before the religion had hardened into rigid orthodoxy, as to whether the Qur'an actually prohibits the consumption of alcohol or merely recommends moderation and/or abstinence." Regardless, he adds:

In the wider Arab and Muslim context, booze is widely available. Although alcohol is generally considered to be haraam (forbidden) in Islam, only the most conservative countries actually impose a legal ban on it. Egypt, for instance, has a booming local alcohol industry that has been growing for years.... Devout Muslims have every right to consider alcohol haraam and not part of Islam the religion. But they must also accept that alcohol has always been an integral and largely tolerated aspect of Islamic culture. [Guardian]

Hopefully, local and world events will let Taybeh raise its glasses in a hearty prost! next year.