a painting of a bottle of Taybeh beer on a wall
Entrance to Taybeh Brewery in the West Bank (Photo/Wikimedia user Magister CC BY-SA 3.0)

Women, cars and beer in the West Bank

From episode 130 of the “(Is It) Good for the Jews?” podcast …

Larry Rosen: I’m going to talk about something positive here.

Eric Goldbrener: Yeah — (having just completed a monologue outlining the increasingly dreary state of the world) — give me something positive.

LR: Something that reminded me that I know nothing about the Middle East. I was flipping channels and saw this show where this guy travels the world, drinking. The show is called “Booze Traveler.” It’s on the Travel Channel. The guy’s an actor, but he hosts this show. And on this episode he’s in Israel! And he’s traveling around, and he’s drinking, and he’s in Tel Aviv, and he’s in Jerusalem, and then he says, “I’m going to the West Bank.” I was thinking, “Can you even go to the West Bank?” I had to Google it. You can. OK. He goes to the West Bank, and he meets these two young women who are race car drivers.

EG: Woo-hoo!

LR: I was seriously gape-mouthed. There’s Palestinian women race car drivers? They’re in Ramallah, and they go to this rooftop bar, and they’re all sitting there and the girls are, well, they’re kind of hot, actually, and they’re drinking this beer, and they’re all saying, “This is the beer brewed in Palestine!” I looked it up and these Palestinian guys grew up in Michigan, they moved to Palestine, they’re making beer. Apparently, I need to go there because I have no idea what’s going on.

EG: Yeah, you have no idea.

LR: And the women were saying, “Yeah, you know, sometimes it gets frustrating to live here, so I take out my frustrations by racing.” And they’re tearing around in an Audi, a little Audi. Anyway, I got the warm fuzzies. Then he went to a kibbutz and drank some pomegranate wine, which looked awful, but I just wanted to say that: I don’t know what’s going on in the Middle East.

EG: The Palestinians are complex and diverse people. They’re not a monolithic entity.

LR: And who is? But I was picturing rules, like Taliban-like, women all shrouded and stuff…

EG: Don’t forget, the Gaza Strip is ruled by Hamas, religious fundamentalists, and the West Bank is ruled by Fatah, who are Arab nationalists. They’re not ideologues. Gaza’s ruled by religious ideologues.

LR: I gotta tell you, the rooftop bar scene, where they’re all drinking, it looked exactly like the scene from Tel Aviv.

EG: Sure. Why not? Also, remember that Ramallah is about 20 minutes from Jerusalem. It’s like a suburb of Jerusalem. Among the Palestinians, remember, a large number are Christian, at least 10 percent or more.

LR: They didn’t mention that, but it was interesting watching this guy navigate the political realities of everything so cavalierly. It was like, “OK, there’s a checkpoint, and we’re going through the checkpoint now; so is it hard to drive here? Yeah, you gotta go through the checkpoint … and here’s these race car-driving women! Let’s go!” So I’ve got to admit, the whole thing made me feel a little, well, optimistic.

EG: Palestinian women race car drivers are good for the Jews, you know?

LR: Yeah, I can’t see how they wouldn’t be.

EG: I haven’t been in the West Bank since I was a kid because, obviously, when I was a kid, it was open. You could take a road trip, drive to Hebron, check it out, go to the market, eat in restaurants. Now, not so easy. But still, there is a lot of intercourse between Israel and the West Bank. Also, the West Bank is connected on the other side to Jordan, and Jordan is a relatively Westernized, progressive country. Don’t forget; Jordan, the West Bank, Israel, these countries have no natural resources. People have to be educated. Unlike in Saudi Arabia, where they have oil.

LR: I saw a sign when I was at a restaurant in Arizona: “Moses dragged us through the desert to find the one place in the Middle East that does not have oil.” — Golda Meir

EG: Yup.