What’s in a grape? Science, politics, and the race for authenticity in the West Bank wineries

12:30 - 2 p.m.
Stephens Hall 340
Ariel Handel, Tel Aviv University

Ariel Handel, Tel Aviv University

Center for Middle Eastern Studies

"Israel aims to recreate wine that Jesus and King David drank," reads a 2015 New York Times title, telling the story of a new wine, Marawi. The Marawi (also known as the Hamdani grape) is, needless to say, not new. Nevertheless, along with several other grape varieties, it is experiencing an identity metamorphosis as part of an economic, cultural, and political race for authenticity. Combining DNA, high-technology, indigenous knowledge, sacred texts' analysis, and modern oenology, the wine industry in Israel-Palestine is taking part in a global process of searching for uniqueness and authenticity, which is at the same time a local process in which two populations are competing over the holy grail of indigeneity. The wine production in the West Bank thus turns into a story of Israelis and Palestinians searching for roots and identity: Who was here first? Who “really” belongs to the place? Whose wine is tastier?

Ariel Handel is director of the Lexicon for Political Theory project, and academic codirector of Minerva Humanities Center at Tel Aviv University. He coedited "Normalizing Occupation: The Politics of Everyday Life in the West Bank Settlements" (2017).

cmes@berkeley.edu, 510-642-8208