Friday, August 03, 2007

Rice, Wine, and Beer for Jerusalem's simmering summer nights

During the brief visits of Condoleezza Rice, the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem goes into security overdrive. Half of the parking structure gets cordoned off for her entourage, and so does the gym, where she goes through her power paces in relative privacy. Condi's first name may translate as "Play it with sweetness", but the trainers there marvel at her fitness and what a mean machine her disciplined daily regimen has shaped...especially compared to, say, Madeleine Albright. All those sweaty repetitions won't necessarily yield the same result for Condi on the diplomatic front, however; it's difficult to see anything especially encouraging this time around, with the weaklings Olmert and Abbas weighing in on the Middle East's future. If the Saudis do participate in autumn talks with the State of Israel, which Riyadh has yet to recognize, it would certainly mark a diplomatic breakthrough. But no one is holding their breath that Israel will agree to speak about only "core issues."
To offset this discouraging political and physical workout, lots of Jerusalemites this week quaffed wine beneath the stars at the Israel Museum's Billy Rose sculpture garden. There were spittoons for proper wine tasting during the three-night wine fest, but most people tossed back entire glassfuls. Izzy Bee even spotted a smiling haredi baby lapping up the dregs from his papa's wineglass. Avi Ben, one of Jerusalem's premier wine shops, was a co-sponsor and laid on classic jazz quartets as well as discounting cases.

Kosher Israeli wine is a a far cry from the cough-syrupy Manischewitz clones that I was dreading, and sipping pinot grigio or syrah varietals while strolling around statues by artists such as Oldenberg, Picasso, Botero, and Henry Moore made us feel very sophisticated for a measly outlay of 55 shekels, which included a stemmed wineglass. Towards the end of the evening, you really had to cajole the pourers for a splash of higher-end wines, but there were 25,000 litres of the stuff on offer. So no gripes about these grapes. For the past two decades, wineries have been a growth industry in what ought to be considered a Mediterranean country.

Tasting stands for Tulip, the boutique Kaslov, Saslove, and Teperberg were popular. Yatir and Recanati, Galil Mountain Wineries and Golan Heights drew a trendy younger crowd, many wearing yarmulkes. Thankfully, we could detect no after-tang of Katyusha smoke or gunpowder in the wines harvested from northern vineyards under rocketfire last summer.

For the hoi polloi like me, there was a competing beer festival in town for just half the entry fee. Everyone toted around plastic pints that resembled test tubes, and some competed in spontaneous belching contests. Apparently boutique beer is due to be the next craze, but this event had more the spirit of a keg party than a tasting. An inflatable corona bottle loomed over the grounds, a jolly reminder that West Jerusalem is a very motley mix.
If you want to making a meal out of such comparisons, let's consider what you might wash down with the Mexican beer. A typical Jerusalem menu might include
Arab salad, Romanian kebabs, Iraqi pita, French fies and Bavarian Cream.
If Israelis devour the same food as anti-Semites with such gusto, then maybe we ought to challenge the old adage that you are what you eat.

I'll drink to that, Condi!

1 comment:

Red Bull said...

Even astride her training cycle, Condi can't keep her mouth shut! Her furious pedalling, going nowhere, is an apt metaphor for her entire Middle East policy.