When I first heard of an “Oktoberfest” in a Palestinian town, I was skeptical. But as our group from Tantur organized by Janelle Neubauer arrived at Taybeh on September 20, we were swept up in the town’s friendly and well-organized hospitality. At 1:00 a procession marched from the town center to the Taybeh Brewery, where a line of booths selling food and local handcrafts greeted us. We sat down to eat and drink and to enjoy the entertainment, dancers, musicians, and even a bagpipe-playing, kilt-wearing Palestinian.
Taybeh is about twenty miles northeast of Jerusalem, surrounded by dry hills, dotted by terraces and olive trees. Maria Khoury, who welcomed people to the celebration, is married to the founder of the Taybeh brewery. Her book, Witness in the Holy Land, is a reflection on life in the occupied Palestinian Territories since the outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising in September 2000. The way she put it, the Oktoberfest is about freedom — the freedom of families like hers to start a business and raise their children.
My glass of beer was the first I had tasted since leaving California, and I really enjoyed it. But at one moment I put my glass down to take a photograph. Then I took another sip, and felt something rough in my mouth. A bee had fallen into the beer, and I had drunk the bee with the beer. It stung me on the tongue. I spit it out, and it crawled away. I was frightened for a moment, afraid that my tongue might swell up. But I was lucky. My tongue was sore, but that was all, and by the next day the soreness was gone. When I got back to Tantur, I had to have another beer — a Taybeh Golden.