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Gaza: Plenty of Whine But Not Much Wine

Al-Monitor has a report on how Gaza went from being known for its wine production to only some being produced secretly at home. Because, Hamas.

While wine has been made in the Gaza Strip for thousands of years, wine and liquor are now illegal under the control of Hamas in Gaza, where a conservative society prevails as it adheres to the teachings of Islamic ideology.

Two months ago, archaeologists discovered a huge industrial area dating back to the Byzantine era and containing a winery that was the largest in the world 1,500 years ago, in what is now the Israeli town of Yavne. Among the discoveries were thousands of pottery jars with the inscription “Gaza wine,” a global brand at the time.

The Gaza Strip used to be known for its wine production. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, one of the world’s most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials, published in 2019 research findings indicating that the commercial production of luxury “Gaza wine” was long assumed to be the economic basis of Late Antiquity settlement in the Negev Desert.

The Hamas movement, which took control of the Gaza Strip in mid-2007, destroyed all quantities of wine and liquor in Gaza. It closed down and burned all places and stores that sold alcoholic drinks. Since then, it has imposed strict control on crossings and tunnels to prevent the entry of contraband such as drugs and alcohol.

Yet Gazans occasionally find empty bottles of wine lying in the streets, which proves that alcohol is indeed found in Gaza albeit in limited quantities.

As for the stores that would sell alcohol and spirits, he said, “Before the 1987 uprising, I would go and buy bottles of wine, as they were publicly available and licensed by the government. In 2003, it was possible to find stores that sold them secretly to Christians and foreign workers in international institutions. But after 2007, the Hamas movement took control of the Gaza Strip and a conservative Islamic rule prevailed, leading some people to secretly produce alcohol at home for fear of being pursued.”

He added, “I only drink alcohol during festive seasons and at wedding parties, or when I have a stomach ache. I never get tipsy or drunk.”

A Christian employee of an international organization told Al-Monitor, “We manufacture alcohol at home, but we neither sell it nor have it in public, and we only drink it on special occasions and at weddings. We live in a conservative society under the rule of Hamas.”

An official source at the Gaza Strip crossings said in a press statement, “There is a Palestinian law that allows the entry of a specific amount of alcohol with each individual, and it applies to cigarettes and shisha tobacco, but due to the situation in Gaza alcohol is only brought to the Christian community.”

He added, “Christians in Gaza, as well as foreigners, including those working in international institutions, are allowed to enter certain quantities of alcohol provided they are not destined for trade. It is not true that alcohol at the crossings is allowed into Gaza, as the thousands of wine bottles seized at the crossings are destroyed.”

Read the entire thing.

By the way, regarding that discovery of a Byzantine-era winery mentioned in the report:

The city was mostly inhabited by Christians and had its own bishop, but there were also Jews and Samaritans living there at the time. 

But no Muslims – for the simple reason it predated Islam. And when Islam came along..

The site apparently continued to host various winemaking operations under Canaanite and Roman regimes, reaching its highest level in the Byzantine era. Following Yavne’s gradual conversion to Islam, the winemaking operation fell into disuse by the seventh century C.E.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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