Turning Palestinian water into Jewish wine or When Jodi met Dani

For three weeks, since The New York Times published that muscle-flexing warning written by Dani Dayan, chairman or the “Yesha” council that represents Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank and formerly in Gaza, I have continued to chew my cheek in irritation.

While the piece lived a 24-hour blog life, with both right-wing anti-settlement Jews and left-wing J Streeters growling about Dayan more than about the piece, the end of the two-state solution mostly passed unnoticed. Perhaps the Olympics were more important.

“Recipe for disaster”

So finally the truth comes out. There was never going to be a Palestinian state, in the eyes or words of Dani Dayan, the head of the Israeli settlers’ council, writing in prime real estate, the OpEd page, in The New York Times.

I continue to chew my cheek. Since 1967 they knew peace was theirs to offer or to refuse. But if a Palestinian state were ever to be dropped plop! right between Jordan and Israel, the Jews would be unprotected, according to Dayan. So much for the coy Israeli phrase “disputed” land. There are no more “disputes” and no “occupation.” The land belongs to Israel. Otherwise, too many Arabs, too few Jews.

Is it really 45 years of grinding occupation after the end of the 1967 War that Dani Dayan announces in The New York Times, the paper of record, that the Israelis need the land from the River to the Sea for their own security?

As to the petulant solution to the “problem” between Israel and the Palestinians, it is simple. Give us everything from the River to the Sea, and we will improve the living conditions of the Palestinians living in OUR land.

A month ago on You Tube, Dayan did a trial run of his final solution. Fewer than 60 people looked at it. But he speaks his ideas in a more compelling manner than I could ever write them.

What the canny leader of the settler movement understood, long before most of us got it, is that ignoring these international conventions like UNSC 242 would do Israel little harm, so why should they yearn to be part of an international community that would not allow Israel to do exactly as it pleases?

Our woman in Jerusalem

Even I was beginning to concentrate on things other than my grievances about Dayan. We are having the best peach season in a decade. Enjoying the trailing days of summer, I could have done without New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren’s snappy Saturday profile of Dani Dayan, a weekend piece more suited to the gee-whiz journalism of People magazine, or the Jerusalem Post weekend magazine.

When the Times announced Rudoren’s new position as Jerusalem bureau chief early this year, I started following her on Twitter. A peppy mother of 5-year-old twins, Yale grad, she was preparing to leave Brooklyn for her new home in Jerusalem. From her pre-move tweets, I learned that New York had more traffic jams than Jerusalem, Vidal Sassoon fought in the 1948 war, Zumba is harder in Hebrew.

Then off to Israel, which is more twitterific than Disney World. She sure tweets delicious popsicles of the place: “Planeful of new immigs to israel includes 6 dogs, 5 sets of twins, 93 kids, 48 families, 127 soldiers to be.”

And another tourist tip: “Funny insanely cheap airfares to Israel – which some buddies of mine managed to book last nite.” Chill folks, this last tweet was two weeks ago, and the prices have probably stabilized by now.

I am not the only one to enjoy Jodi in 140-character nibbles. There was a marvelous deadpan visual on The Daily Beast created by Eli Valley, Artist in Residence at The Forward.

I had to read those delicious tweets three times before I was certain that they were not vintage Rudoren, but satire.

Dani and Jodi

On to the Saturday meet sweet between Dani and Jodi. (OK, so maybe this piece is a bit of a paean to my departed friend Nora Ephron). First a couple of suggestions:

  • When you read the piece, drop in some key words, such as “illegal” before settlements, “illegal settlement “before Ariel, Psagot winery, followed by a defining phrase “built on stolen Palestinian land.” 

  • Don’t be put off by the number of corrections on the online version of Rudoren’s piece. Dayan’s family arrived in 1971, not 1979. Not important. Ze’ev Jabotinsky led the Zionist terrorist organization Irgun, not Haganah.  More important. Jodi is the Jerusalem Bureau Chief. Dayan’s father was actually a second cousin to Gen. Moshe Dayan, not a first cousin.

Now we are ready to proceed.

Jodi clearly admires her subject. She writes that “touring the settlements with Mr. Dayan is like attending a family reunion with a proud patriarch.” She assures the reader that Mr. Dayan’s movement “has had a string of successes this summer.”

One success is elevating the [illegal] college at Ariel to an even larger [illegal] university. And another is that “a government appointed commission of three respected judges [respected by whom?] declared the entire settlement enterprise to be legal, contrary to international opinion.”

Does anyone have the same prickly feeling I do? Is this woman a journalist or a PR representative for the settlements?

Paragraph that might be a tryout for Architectural Digest, if not simply for the Times’ own Style Section:

They built a showpiece home, where the sunken double-height living room is filled with a painting from Vietnam, a sculpture from Machu Picchu, and a meditation bowl from Nepal. “This is from South Africa,” he said, pointing to a set of large wooden masks. “Post-apartheid South Africa. I refused to visit apartheid South Africa.”

Without a follow-up question about apartheid in Palestine? Jodi, you have guts, girl. The kind of person who would ignore the cat vomit in the hostess’s bathroom at a dinner party.

Psagot Winery

Finally our tour with the effable Mr. Dayan and his eager scribe moves to the Psagot Winery, where they sample robust reds. The winery was completed in 2009, and boasts a tasting bar, a store, an event hall, dining rooms, and hefty price tags. Nestled on the peaks of the northern Jerusalem hills, the view is spectacular: the Jericho Valley, the Dead Sea, and the Edomite Mountains. The Promised Land.

In keeping with centuries old Palestinian methods of cultivating vineyards, the vines are terraced upon the mountainside. Much land was excavated in the process of building the winery. Almost miraculously a cave was discovered. In the cave were found artifacts from an ancient wine and olive press.

All this ancient loot dates back to the Second Temple period, making it all Jewish property – according to settler logic – along with the mountain and the grapes and the soil, perfect for growing the most delicious grapes imaginable. Lucky find, I’d say.

The image of a Judean coin purported to have been found in a cave from the Second-Temple period is found on each bottle of wine, reminding everyone who imbibes it that the wine is as legitimately Jewish as the settlements themselves.

It is the hope of the Yesha council to make the winery and its dramatic location a major stop on the Jewish tourist’s visit. Thus, the mention in the Times without any real details about the winery. While offering us details about the double-height living room of Mr. Dayan, Ms. Rudoren falls silent when she might have mentioned that the provenance of the wine affects its sales.

Many Israelis and internationals will not buy the wine because it comes from the occupied West Bank.

An issue that might interest a journalist is the concern of the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din. Agreeing with the Palestinian objections that the vineyard sits on private Palestinian land, Yesh Din contradicts the settlers’ insistence “that they are only planting vines on state-owned land.. . Vineyards just naturally expand and take over land.”

The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief neither remarks on the spreading of the grapevines across more land each year or the settlers’ spreading ambitions for the newly snatched Palestinian land. She does not investigate where the water to irrigate all these vineyards comes from. Might it come from the small Palestinian villages that share the glorious vistas as the Psagot illegal settlement?

Oh Jodi, you missed a great opportunity to say in your Tweety style that the ever-clever settlers have turned Palestinian water into Jewish wine.




If if you are not religious, or not Jewish or don't believe in the Bible, still, fairly amazing that the prophet Jeremiah, 31:5, had this to say: "Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit." And we know it was written before the Arabs came out of Arabia in 638 CE to conquer and occupy (was that illegal then?) the Land of Israel.

Alice Bach's picture

How lovely that we share an interest in the prophet and poet Jeremiah, who God considered a prophet to the nations (1:10).  As you quoted chap. 31, part of the section concerned with the restoration of Israel, let me quote a bit later in the same section, chap. 34:17-22.  God is furious and proclaims that the Judahites will be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth (34:17).  God vows (through his prophet) that he shall give the land to their enemies, the King of Judah and his princes will be given to the the king of Babylon’s army.  And the final proclamation:  “I will make the cities of Judah a desolation without an inhabitant” (22).

After the fall of the Babylonians, and the Selucids, and the Greeks, the Romans owned those lovely mountains.  God has not returned the land to Israel. 




I am amazed that someone who quotes from the Bible does so without any alignment with actual historical context. Jeremiah was a prophet of the destruction of the 1st Temple and so what you quoted fits with what happened. What Jeremiah intended in the verse I quoted from was to soothe the children of Israel with a promise of restoration - which, indeed happened, and will continue to happen. Just as the later prophet Ezekiel 28:25-26 "Thus saith the Lord GOD: When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the nations, then shall they dwell in their own land which I gave to My servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses, and plant vineyards; yea, they shall dwell safely; when I have executed judgments upon all those that have them in disdain round about them; and they shall know that I am the LORD their God." and also Amos 9:1314 "Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will turn the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. 15 And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God."

God has not returned? Madam, where do I live for the past 31 years? Whay are those grapes doing in my garden? Are you so ideologically and politically blind that you cannot see?

Alice Bach

Alice Bach's picture

My past careers have been as a book editor, a journalist, and a writer of children’s books.  Then I joined the Catholic Worker, learned to make soup for hundreds of homeless folks, and went to graduate school.  I have taught religious studies at both Stanford University and Case Western Reserve University.  Being unsuccessful at tearing down the Ivory Tower of academia, I decided to concentrate on writing about Palestine.  My goal is to tear down the Apartheid Wall with words.