Christians in Gaza make illegal wine in defiance of Hamas

26th August, 2014 by Simon Howland

Neither the conflict with Israel or a Hamas ban are enough to stop Christians making wine in Gaza and local winemakers have come up with some original methods as a result.

Between Hamas control and conflict with Israel Palestine is not the easiest place to make wine.

Between Hamas control and conflict with Israel Palestine is not the easiest place to make wine.

Ashley Gallagher of vice.com spoke to Isa, a winemaker in the Gaza strip, about the challenges they face in order to enjoy a glass in the troubled territory.

Following Hamas taking power in Gaza in 2007 a law banning the possession of alcohol was implemented which forced the production and consumption of wine underground.

According to Isa, he and his friends have to speak in code when arranging to meet and drink wine, usually only on special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays and other important celebrations.

“I just share with trusted persons,” said Isa.

“I don’t want to get into trouble with the government,” he said, and he doesn’t share with Muslim friends for fear of who might inform Hamas.

A friend of Isa’s, Tony, claimed most Christians made wine in their homes but insisted it’s not wise to advertise especially during periods such as the latest conflict with Israel.

But despite all the difficulties involved Tony was adamant he would keep making and drinking alcohol as: “wine is simply a part of life.”

According to Gallagher Gaza is home to a tightly knit community of around 2,000 Christians of varied denominations who practice openly, attend church and their women walk in public without their heads covered.

Like many of his fellow Christians in Gaza Isa’s faith is important to him and celebrating with wine is part of that.

An Iron Age wine jug discovered in Palestine indicates a long history of winemaking in the region.

An Iron Age wine jug discovered in Palestine indicates a long history of winemaking in the region.

Winemaking in Palestine goes back to the Iron age but Isa was taught how to make wine by his father in Yemen, where wine is also illegal, before they migrated to Gaza after Hamas came to power.

To make a new batch Isa goes to the local markets and buys 265 pounds (120kg) of grapes which produces 40l of wine.

He first washes the grapes thoroughly then mashes them with his hands or uses a blender.

Then, he said: “I put them in a gallon (4.5l) [container] and cover it with a blanket and put it on the balcony for more warmth, so it can mix inside.”

The fermentation process lasts for about 40 days and about halfway through he filters the wine and then leaves it to settle.

“It’s not the best way,” admitted Tony.

“But it’s the way we know how,” he said.

He refers to the Italians who he sees as having the benefit of time to age their wines, a luxury they don’t have in Gaza as they have to drink it as soon as they can for fear of being caught.

And as for the wine, Isa says it’s good for his health and, rather than drink to get drunk he enjoys drinking during wartime and while in the company of friends.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to our newsletters

Job vacancies

Fine Wine Sales Administrator

Davy's Wine Merchants
London, UK

Business Development Manager - On Trade

FINE+RARE
Central London, GB

Regional Sales Manager

Swallow Associates Ltd
Home Based: North-West England, UK

London Account Manager Role (Full Time)

LITTLE BIRD GIN
Home based with UK travel. , GB

Sales Operations Manager

Bibendum PLB
London, UK

Digital Marketing Executive (online content & community manager)

Corney & Barrow Limited
London E1W (near Tower Bridge), UK

Store Manager – Premium Drinks

Amathus Drinks PLC
London, UK

On-Trade Regional Sales Manager

Anthony Byrne Fine Wines
London and the South East, UK

Wine Sales – Northwest England

Gerrard Seel
North West England

Senior On-Trade Sales Manager – English Sparkling Wine Company

COREcruitment
London based with national travel, UK

National Account Manager – RTM – On Trade

COREcruitment
Home based with frequent UK travel

Sales Account Manager - Wine

COREcruitment
London, Devon, Manchester, Liverpool, Farnham, Cambridge, UK

The Global Sparkling Masters 2017

Deadline : 14th June 2017

The Global Syrah Masters 2017

Deadline : 14th June 2017

The Global Malbec Masters 2017

Deadline : 14th June 2017

The Global Beer Masters 2017

Deadline : 1st August 2017

Click to view more

The Drinks Business Awards 2017

Now in its 15th year, the db awards have become the most authoritative, internationally respected badge of achievement in the alcoholic drinks industry.

The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters 2017

the drinks business Hong Kong announces its first year of The Asian Cabernet Sauvignon Masters.

Rioja Masters 2016

Now in its fifth year, the competition will recognise and reward the finest Riojas on the world stage.

Fortified Masters 2016

Now in its third year, The Fortified Masters will reward the best fortified wines on offer.

Click to view more