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Golan Heights: Making Wine in the Shadow of War

on 15/09/14 at 1:39 pm


about-picA cold morning mist hangs over row after row of deep purple grapes — a scene ripe for thoughtful contemplation.

Just a few fields away a civil war ensues, and occasionally the sound of sirens punctuates the serene vineyard.

In the Golan Heights, two drastically different worlds exist side-by-side — as dissimilar as water and wine.

While the multimillion dollar Pelter Winery in northern Israel begins each morning harvesting fruit, nearby Syrian rebels and government troops exchange gunfire.

Israel occupied this strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 war.

And the region — characterized by a dry climate, high altitude, and sunshine ideal for grape growing — was turned into a major wine producer.

Fruits of labor

Today the Pelter Winery is one such site, producing over 100,000 bottles each year.

Jews and Arabs from nearby villages harvest the grapes, before a conveyer belt delivers them to a giant press.

There’s no foot stomping here, as the richly-colored fruit is processed and placed in giant oak barrels that co-owner Tal Pelter likes to call “expensive tea bags.”

“In a year from now it’ll be ready,” he explains in a warehouse stacked high with barrels.