Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beer Zionism

"You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer." 

Frank Zappa

Frank Zappa might have been on to something when he noted that "a real country" needs a beer. I promised in my first post, and reference with the name of this blog, that I would write about beer and what I believe it has to do with Zionism.

Before I get into that, I feel it’s important to give some background and perhaps share two memories which for me recall very formative events in my life. The first being in Atlanta Georgia when I was 17 years of age. I had my first really good beer. Up until that point I had tasted whatever was around, whatever was cheap, whatever someone served as some silly party in someone’s basement or some random house party. But all of that changed in October of 2002. I consumed a SweetWater Georgia Brown with its “river of deep caramel and chocolate malts meandering through undercut currents of hop additions.” I remember thinking upon drinking that beer, my life would be forever changed; beer was good, and I was hooked. I thought about how I had previously underrated beer as a beverage and how it obviously involved much more craft and talent than I was privy to.  

The second exberience (don’t anyone steal this word or phrase, I am going to find a clever use for it in the future) took place in Eugene Oregon while I was in college. I was introduced to the Rogue Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. This was a magical thing. Dessert, as a liquid, and beer, as my somewhat complicated, yet always appreciated- new friend. With this I knew, someone had put love into the recipe. Someone had toiled over this. Someone had created something with the intention of telling a story and offering a piece of who they are in liquid form. I didn’t know it then but I certainly recognize it now, that this has everything to do with supporting my Jewish homeland, reviving a Jewish Nation State, returning to an emancipated, autonomous existence for Jews around the world, and creating a culture, society, and g-dly awareness of our mission here on earth as Jews.

To understand what I mean it’s also important that I highlight a few visionaries, upon whose shoulders I stand in order to make these assertions and endeavor towards the Micro-Brewery which Ben and I will, BH, establish and operate here in Israel very soon.

Leon (Yehuda) Pinsker was a Zionist pioneer and founder of the Hovevei Zion (lovers of Zion) movement. In short, Leon realized that Jews would always be a hated people, persecuted, oppressed, exploited, and harassed everywhere we went because we were always foreigners. We had no land of our own; we wandered in and out of countries and history, depending on the goodwill, or tolerance of others for our survival. Leon urged Jews to strive for independence but more importantly, he pushed for Jewish national consciousness. In 1890, The Society for the Support of Jewish Farmers and Artisans in Syria and Palestine’ dedicated to the practical aspects of establishing agricultural Jewish settlements was established. Pinsker headed local efforts for this charity through an organization, known as the Odessa Committee. Pinsker knew well the national consciousness would be connected to the Land.

A.D. Gordon echoed some of Pinsker’s ideas. Gordon believed because Jews in the Diaspora were unable to participate in creative labor (namely because Jews were in many places unable to own, lease, or work land), they would exist as parasites everywhere they went. Gordon promoted physical labor and agriculture as a means of uplifting Jews spiritually. It was the experience of labor, he believed, that linked the individual to the hidden aspects of nature and being, which, in turn were the source of vision, poetry, and the spiritual life. Furthermore, he also believed that working the land was a sacred task, not only for the individual but for the entire Jewish people. Agriculture would unite the people with the land and justify its continued existence there. In his own words: "The Land of Israel is acquired through labor, not through fire and not through blood." Return to the soil would transform the Jewish people and allow its rejuvenation, according to his philosophy.

Rav Kook also recognized the connection between the people, the land, and our ultimate mission. He believed that the modern movement to re-establish a Jewish state in the land of Israel had profound theological significance and that the Zionists were agents in a heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era.  In some of Rav Kook’s writing, he recognizes the importance and utility of the Land in uniting and strengthening the Jewish people, but for him it was more:

The land of Israel is not some external entity.
It is not merely an external acquisition for the Jewish people.
It is not merely a means of uniting the populace.
It is not merely a means of strengthening our physical existence.
It is not even merely a means of strengthening our spiritual existence.

Rather, the land of Israel has an intrinsic meaning.
It is connected to the Jewish people with the knot of life. 
Its very being is suffused with extraordinary qualities.

The extraordinary qualities of the land of Israel and the extraordinary qualities of the Jewish people are two halves of a whole.
Eretz Chiefetz

These and many other important and influential Zionist visionaries ascribe great significance to Jews working and creating in our land. I believe that while each has his own approach, core problems could be parsed in a like fashion and an underlining theme can be found amongst them all; which is that creativity, productivity, and inspiration are all interconnected with the place and space in which the Jewish people reside and realize their potential.

In Dvarim Chapter 8 it is written “ 
כִּי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ, מְבִיאֲךָ אֶל-אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה:  אֶרֶץ, נַחֲלֵי מָיִם--עֲיָנֹת וּתְהֹמֹת, יֹצְאִים בַּבִּקְעָה וּבָהָר  אֶרֶץ חִטָּה וּשְׂעֹרָה, וְגֶפֶן וּתְאֵנָה וְרִמּוֹן; אֶרֶץ-זֵית שֶׁמֶן, וּדְבָשׁ
“For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and honey.”

That sounds like a nice list of fresh, local ingredients that, when combined with love, craft, inspiration, and holy consciousness, can make a damn good beer and many variations therein.

And so, with this in mind, I believe that opening a microbrewery here in Israel, establishing a business, employing Israelis, growing, harvesting and using Israeli produce and farming goods, adding to the economy, creating independent craft products and brands instead of importing cheaper and sometimes poorer quality alternatives, working the land and using the ingredients Hashem has blessed us with- enhancing the enjoyment of Israelis and Jews, and instilling pride in those who choose to imbibe with said products- are all part and parcel of my Beer Zionism. 


  1. you and Benz's passion

  2. Cannot wait for the Grand Opening of your business. I will be there when you cut the ribbon! Bless you for your deep understanding of Farm To Table - this is how you will be successful, using local ingredients that in turn give jobs to local people. Here in ATL, I have been buying things at the local Farmers Market, to support LOCAL. I love that you will be doing it there too! Get to work on those recipes and get that beer ready for launch! Love you.