Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 10.06.2007:
Promoting Pride in Palestine
By Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D.
There are a few courageous entrepreneurs in the occupied Palestinian Territories who personally promote the pride in making a product in Palestine, and one of them places his signature on each and every single Taybeh Beer bottle produced at the Taybeh Brewing Company. Nadim Canaan Khoury, a risk taker and the master brewer of Taybeh Beer, continues to bottle the only micro-brewed beer in the Middle East – a beer that is pure and natural, without any preservatives or additives.
This pride in Palestine most likely comes from his late father, Canaan Daoud Khoury, who had the dream that is common to every Palestinian father: to see his children get education, skills, and money from abroad but return to Palestine. This is the dream of many but the reality of very few. With the opportunity of the Oslo Agreement and such a great hope placed in the two-state solution, the great believer, Nadim, and his brother Daoud Khoury, co-founder of Taybeh Brewing Company and a successful entrepreneur for over twenty-five years, returned to invest in Palestine and boost the economy. They brought state-of-the-art equipment from Canada, the United States, and Europe, and set it up in the highest mountain region in the West Bank, their beloved home village of Taybeh.
You cannot find Taybeh on any map since it is surrounded by illegal Israeli settlements and does not even exist as a tiny spot in the middle of the wilderness. Known in the New Testament as “Ephraim” of biblical Judea, Taybeh gained its modern name at the time of Saladin in the late-12th century but achieved fame after Taybeh Beer was launched in August 1995.
As a great planner and visionary, Nadim works hard and takes pride in producing a Palestinian beer that has placed Taybeh on the map. He has invited hundreds of internationals, journalists, TV and radio stations, and high-ranking diplomats to visit Taybeh, and as a consequence, the Taybeh Beer portfolio no longer has space for all the articles that have been printed in numerous languages throughout the world.
The “good parts” of the Taybeh Brewery story include international publicity and busloads of pilgrims who used to visit daily. The other parts of the story are filled with checkpoints, difficulties at the Israeli port, and that fateful day, September 28, 2000, after which business-as-normal ceased to exist. As a result of the closure and constant curfews, Taybeh Beer sales immediately dropped 50 percent, and Israeli competitors were calling, smiling, and indicating that it was time to close up shop and leave the country. Daoud Khoury’s response to such calls, especially during a New York Times interview, was: “Not even in your dreams.”
Both Khoury brothers have a deep love for their village and for Palestine, and they consider that simply living in Palestine and running a family business during the catastrophic days of the past six years is a form of peaceful resistance – a resistance based on investment in the economy, job creation, the promotion of Palestinian products, and the creation of national pride through Taybeh Beer. A significant element of this resistance includes stocking Palestinian supermarkets with local products rather than imports, which shamefully dominate the shelves. The Taybeh Brewing Company’s marketing campaign has made people realize that the purchase of Palestinian products boosts the local economy. The campaign slogan, conceived by Canaan Daoud Khoury II, captures the essence of the campaign philosophy: “Drink Palestinian … Taste the Revolution.”
To say that the sons of Canaan returned to Palestine to do something different is an understatement. It seems that Nadim was born with a mission since his name in Arabic means “friend.” His unique translation of the word “nadim” is “your friendly drinking buddy.” The famous Egyptian singer, Um Qulthum, even sings for Al Nadim. Thus it seems that Nadim Canaan Khoury was born with a destiny to be revolutionary and extraordinary in an environment that only rewards students who excel in reading and math. Neither subject attracted Nadim, a true mechanical genius who is able to fix anything that breaks down in his brewery.
As my classmate, Nadim graduated from Hellenic College in Massachusetts (l983) with a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration. His hobby during college was making beer, and afterwards, he studied brewing in California and attended many beer events in Germany. He recently visited a brewing academy in China.
Nadim married Suhair Ghandi Harb and has four children, the oldest of whom, Madees, wants to follow her father’s footsteps in brewing. If you ask any of them to describe their father, they are sure to tell you that he is a workaholic who makes beer, dreams beer, talks about beer, reads about beer, and without him, Taybeh Beer would not exist.
However, the bottom line reads that Nadim Khoury, with the support of his entire family, made history in Palestine and furthermore made one of the finest products in the Middle East. It was the first Palestinian product to be franchised and produced in Germany under the Taybeh Beer license in Palestine. This might explain how Nadim got his nickname: the “Samuel Adams of the Middle East.” He also diversified his interests and began to bottle Taybeh Extra Virgin Olive Oil to help farmers market their oil and benefit from his export license. Despite the struggles to obtain permits and the obstacles at the Israeli port, you can still find Taybeh Beer in Japan and Taybeh Oil in Australia.
Palestine today needs many more genuine entrepreneurs like Nadim and Daoud. Consider this a wake-up call for the Palestinian sleeping giant in the Diaspora! Return to Palestine and become leaders in long-term economic growth and social welfare.
As an optimist, Nadim insists that one day we will toast to a just peace and authentic democracy in Palestine with Taybeh Beer and say to all of the entrepreneurs in the Middle East: Cheers!
Dr. Maria C. Khoury organized the Taybeh Oktoberfest in 2005 and 2006 to help boost the economy by promoting support for local products.
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