David Khoury, founder of Taybeh Brewing Company, noted at a meeting of the International Business Initiative, speaking live from Palestine, that despite tremendous challenges of international businesses in Palestine and of beer producers in a country that is largely muslim, Palestinian businesses can be successful around the world, Born in Taybeh, Palestine, 15 miles from Jerusalem, with an MBA from Boston College, he was involved in the liquor and real estate business in Massachusetts before returning to his birthplace to start his company in 1995. His brother is a master brewer in CA. After the 2000 Intifada (from an Arabic word meaning “to shake”, an uprising) he moved back to the US. Now Taybeh exports to Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain, Japan and Italy. The Palestinian national beer had previously been Israeli beer. There is an emerging identity and brand for Palestinian products. Educated consumers prefer a 100% natural beer without preservatives like Taybeh brews. His beer, marketed as “fresh,” must be temperature-controlled. Ethnicity and purity are important to the brand, brewed and using ingredients as per in accordance with German purity law.
Palestine is dependent in Israel for scarce water. Taybeh may go 8 days with no water source, despite a spring nearby outside Sanya Spring. This is a big issue for a brewery. Once a week the storage tank is filled. Farmers cannot get enough water to irrigate crops. Trees are dying. It is green in spring but dry after April. Israel has daily access to water. The business gets little help from the Palestinian government. Taxes increase. Local government often stops and searches the trucks. Palestine has no airport or port and so Israeli ports must be used. Malted barley must be imported from Belgium and hops from Bavaria and the Czech Republic. Logistics are costly with security and standards checks and unloading from a Palestinian truck to an Israeli truck at the border with Israel. What the Palestinians refer to as occupation by Israel is an obstacle. Women in his culture do not drink much and there is a cultural taboo against alcohol in Islam. It can take a month to ship to certain locations around the world. The label says “bottled and brewed in Palestine” but US law requires it state “bottled and brewed in the West Bank, Israel.” Taybeh wants the brand identified as a Palestinian, not an Israeli, beer. It is difficult to market his brand in Israel yet it is sold in Jaffa, Nazareth, and Haifa but not in Galilee.
He initiated Octoberfest in Palestine and many attended from around the world. A case costs 156 shekels or $42. He is considering brewing it also in Boston and is seeking a brewer to partner with in the US. His brother and he own the business. As Taybeh’s mayor from 2005-2012, he developed sewage systems, schools and other projects funded by the U.S. and European Union, Denmark and the Netherlands, not the PLA.
Over 350,000 Christians have moved out of Palestine. He is part of a Christian minority of 1.5% there now. Gaza formerly was 80% Christian. Now it is 20%.
Taybeh means “delicious.” I tried the dark beer when visiting in April . It was full of flavor and not bitter. I understand why they call the company Taybeh. Our group visited the modern hotel Khoury built in Taybeh which recently opened. I saw a reemerging Palestine, with some businesses succeeding despite many challenges.
J. Michael Considine, Jr., is chairman of the International Business Initiative.