Oktoberfest in Palestine

By Andreas Risbjerg

PNN/ Ramallah/

Yes you read correct. Taybeh brewery, from the village with the same name, arranged a beer festival with inspiration from the famous German Oktoberfest in September and in Palestine! Living in Palestine as a foreigner can be a quite depressing affair; even with all the benefits one enjoys as an international, living under occupation can still be draining. Luckily completely exquisite moments can, from time to time, serve as a counterweight to an otherwise serious everyday in occupied Palestine. Oktoberfest 24. through 25. September proved to be exactly one of these moments.

The 12th Oktoberfest, which has been on the lips of most internationals based in Palestine the last months, lasted two days and attracted thousands of visitors.   The prospect of meeting some internationals with common interests in the middle east, and foremost the prospect of drinking world-class beer right at the spot of its production seemed to good toreject. So some friends and I filled a rental 7-seater withPalestinians and foreigners and headed off from Hebron to Taybeh, the drive from Hebron in the south to Taybeh between Ramallah and Nablus went fast in the rented car. Although there were buses leaving from Bethlehem to the Oktoberfest in Taybeh, a rental car surely seemed like the better option.

We arrived at the village around two in the afternoon, the festival kicked off at 11 in the morning that day, but we were still some of the first guests to pay the 20-shekel entrance for the festival. Previously was this Palestinian Oktoberfest celebrated in the town square in Taybeh, but few years ago the event was moved to the factory in the outskirts of the little Christian village. The Taybeh factory almost serves as an extension of the Khoury family’s home. Like many other Palestinian companies, Taybeh Beer Company is family driven.NadimKhoury founded the brewery in 1994, after he learned the art of brewery after a stay at college of California, and today numerous members of the family are involved in the production and distribution of the delicious brew. (Taybeh actually means delicious in Arabic). The Taybeh-beer is sold in the West Bank, Israel and some European countries.

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One of the friends I went to the Oktoberfest with was German, and had thus participated in an original version of Oktoberfest. “The beers are smaller here than in Germany” was his first commentary when we were served two cups, each containing a third of litre of the lager-like “Golden” variety. But for 15 shekels for each serving, the size/price relation actually seemed reasonable. Whilst waiting in line aforementioned friend poked me and pointed at a sign above the bar. The sign read; “Keep Palestine green – please reuse your cup”. The intention is obviously wonderful; the more attention paid to reuse, the better. But the statement of keeping Palestine green seemed a bit optimistic; most internationals that have strolled through a Palestinian city, will probably agree that Palestine isn’t exactly green at the moment. Well enough of me acting as a bitter old man, I would rather just give a thumbs up to Taybeh Beer Company for pursuing to establish an environmental mentality in Palestine.

The program on the first day was packed with different musical acts, kids activities and competitions.  The first actwas two giant puppets dancing around between the guests. The two 4 metre high puppets were controlled by two actors from a BeitJala theatre group, and certainly created many smiles on the bystanders lips.

Much of the music was from local rising bands mixed with some international acts. The Nablus based American-Palestinian rap-duo; RP and Al-Feel stood out with an energetic show. The joint English and Arabic lyrics encapsulated the international vibe at the Oktoberfest really well. Unluckily some technical problems took the top off that act. Later, community singing broke out between the few hundreds spectators when Jack Tannous and Ramallah band performed with traditional Palestinian tunes. The numeorus musicians from Al-Raseef filled the stage and I moved my feet in the warm Palestinian night to their mix of Arabic and Balkan rhythms. I probably attracted some looks with my strange homemade hybrid between dabka moves and European club dancing.

After a full day of sipping beer in the sun, intake of some more solid matters is crucial; fortunately the Oktoberfest offered a wide selection of eating opportunities. There was both beef and lamb shawarma, pork sausage sandwich, crepes and pizza. All the food was of high quality and to sensible prices.

Since all of the members of my group, including myself, had to get up the next day we had to leave Taybeh before the festival proper ended. When exiting we got a hint of just how popular the Oktoberfest was, a group of maybe 50 persons were hopefully waiting to be let in to the already full festival. We found our car in the chaos of vehicles leaving and headed home to Hebron, all feeling a bit lucky we had the chance to enjoy a day with music and beer in occupied Palestine.