Illustration: Tablet Magazine; original images: Shutterstock
Illustration: Tablet Magazine; original images: Shutterstock
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Want To Fight BDS? Drink Up.

There’s no more pleasurable way to support Israel than to enjoy the exceptional wines made in Judea and Samaria. Here are three of the best.

Liel Leibovitz
January 22, 2016
Illustration: Tablet Magazine; original images: Shutterstock
Illustration: Tablet Magazine; original images: Shutterstock

The BDS movement has got me down.

Not, God forbid, because the anti-Semitic and obscurantist cabal that advocates the singling out of the Jewish state for all of mankind’s sins has been making any real progress lately. Thankfully, the Israel-haters are taking one hit after another, from a proposed California bill that would forbid the Golden State from doing business with anyone advocating BDS to a Spanish Supreme Court decision ordering the country’s housing ministry to pay 70,000 euros for illegally excluding Ariel University from a science competition in 2009. But whereas BDS is everywhere deplored by decent, thinking folks, it comes at the high cost of constantly occupying the minds and the passions of those with better things to do. Like termites to oak, destructive movements like BDS—a specialty of the lunatic left these days—take to civil society and consume all that is solid with their rage, leaving behind nothing but hollow spaces, crumbling and useless. I can’t take another BDS-themed group email, strategy session, or concerned phone call. I’m all BDSed out.

Which means it’s time to drink heavily.

Not, of course, as an admission of defeat or an attempt at escape. The drinking I have in mind is proactive and political. It is ideological inebriation, a joyous and assertive reaction that meets prejudice with Pinot. Instead of arguing with those who want to mindlessly destroy, I’d like to celebrate those who artfully create. And my favorite creation just happens to be wine.

And so, as the State Department supported the European Union’s move to distinguish Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria from the rest of Israel, I went out and shopped for some Israeli wines—all of them made in settlements, all of them terrific.

The first bottle was called Pasco Project Number 2, and, if nothing else, it’s proof that you can go home again. Having abandoned California for Israel nearly two decades ago, Lewis Pasco helped turn Tishbi into a world-class vineyard before taking his talents to Recanati and racking up medals in one international wine show after another, including being awarded “Best Wine of Israel” three times in five years at Bourdeaux’s Vinexpo, the world’s most prestigious wine competition. Then, at the peak of his powers, he returned to California to further season his mastery. The red soil of Samaria, however, lured him back; it was ideal topography, he believed, for serious reds, and he wanted to put his own name on a bottle. In 2012, he returned to Israel to do just that.

The result—which contains 73 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 7 percent Carignan grapes, both from Shiloh, and 20 percent Merlot from Givat Yeshayahu in the Judean Hills—is sublime. Aged for nine months in old French oak barrels, it is the sort of wine worthy of its biblical landscape, beginning with a ripe blackberry fruitiness and maturing into spice, tobacco, and dark chocolate.

But the Pasco, as the Bordelais would say, was only the amuse-bouche. Next in line was Shiloh’s Legend II. If that name seems a tad self-aggrandizing, consider that the winery stands not far from the permanent resting place of the Mishkan, the portable tabernacle the Jews carried with them in the wilderness before building the temple in Jerusalem. Pour some Legend II into your glass, and its deep red will call to mind ancient altars and ritual sacrifice. Sip it, and prepare for similarly mystical sensations: Smoke, soy, plum, and anise all demand attention and reward further palatable explorations. The label ties it together nicely, featuring a bow-tied gentlemen, his hands shackled, with the tagline “Anything’s Possible.” In a community that has recently suffered a slew of terror attacks, this is as much of a threat as it is a promise.

Marinated in primordial reds, I needed something to send me off into the good night, something unapologetically cherry vanilla with a touch of herbs and foliage. I uncorked a bottle of Merlot, which I rarely do, but was gratified with each sip: Tura’s 2011 Mountain Heights tasted as if it came from grapes that grew on a lush mountain and handled tenderly and with love. Which, as it happens, is precisely the case: Tura means mountain in Aramaic, and the hilly vineyard was started by Vered and Erez Ben Saadon, a deeply religious pair who taught themselves the art of winemaking as they went along. It shows: This is not a timid Merlot, subdued into docility by too much polish. Like the people who live in the Jewish communities nearby, it is unabashed about its convictions and was not designed to play nice with the skeptics.

With three nearly empty bottles by my side, I felt much better about the state of affairs. Let the sanctioners sanction and the divesters divest. To fight back, all you have to do is tilt your glass a little, swirl it once or twice, take a long sip, and know that you are supporting the only people who have historically won any conflict worth winning, those who answer guns and knives and violence with vineyards and grapes and hopes of a better vintage to come.


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Liel Leibovitz is editor-at-large for Tablet Magazine and a host of its weekly culture podcast Unorthodox and daily Talmud podcast Take One. He is the editor of Zionism: The Tablet Guide.