in Israel is once again big business. But it hasn’t
always been that way.
• Find out why the industry went from being
a major commercial activity in biblical times but
then ground to an abrupt halt.
• Discover how the wine industry in Israel
is once again burgeoning and gaining a reputation
with wine buffs.
• Learn about ancient usages and artifacts
connected to wine in Israel.
Wine making is a fascinating topic and one that is
well suited to documentaries, travelogues and historical
Israel has two ancient and traditional wine growing
regions; the Shomron (Samaria region) and Samson (located
between the Judean Hills and Coastal Plain). Today
many more areas have successfully introduced winemaking
and the Israeli market is gaining an international
reputation for quality.
Wine making in Israel is recorded as being prevalent
during ancient times but came to an abrupt halt with
the destruction of Jewish vineyards by the Roman and
Muslim conquests. Its recent reintroduction has been
the cause of much celebration.
The history and resurgence of wine making in Israel
would make an interesting topic for a documentary,
filmed in Israel.
It touches on many themes; biblical, historical, archaeological,
sociological, scientific and idealistic.
An Ancient Tradition
The bible is positively flowing with wine and the
Talmud mentions more than twelve different varieties.
Genesis 20:21 records that the first task Noah performed
following disembarking the ark was to plant a vineyard.
Gen:20, “And Noah began to be an husbandman,
and he planted a vineyard.”
There are passages in the Bible that record Jesus’
drinking of wine, the most famous of which is at The
Last Supper on the Jewish festival of Passover.
The vineyards of Galilee and Judea are mentioned
in various ancient texts and during King David’s
reign wine stores were so substantial that they necessitated
a court official whose sole responsibility was to
Wine produced in ancient times was different from
that of today. It was often flavored with a variety
of fruits and spices and did not have a wonderful
reputation. Some say that the wine drunk in the bible
is akin to grape juice. It was consumed in enormous
quantities and often accompanied meals. It was a cheap
beverage, at half the cost of olive oil.
Winemaking in ancient Israel reached its climax during
Second Temple times when it played a major part in
Following the Roman conquest in 70CE, many vineyards
were destroyed. Later, in 636 CE, the Muslim conquest
lead to further destruction of ancient vines and the
consequence was a cessation of wine production in
Israel for 1,200 years.
Archaeological excavations have uncovered ancient
wine presses and storage vessels that indicate the
existence of a successful wine industry spanning from
Mount Hermon in the North to the Negev in the South.
There is evidence of wine making in Jericho, Lachish
and Arad dating back to between 3500 and 3000 BCE.
Photo credit: www.wine-tasting-reviews.com
An Israeli wine press dating back to100 - 400 CE
Gibeon was the main wine producing area in ancient
Israel and wine cellars have been discovered there
from 700 CE.
In addition to the discovery of wine making equipment;
grapes and vines were a popular illustrations on coins,
jars and other artifacts uncovered from ancient civilizations.
An Integral Part of Jewish
Wine for the Sabbath and as part of the Wedding Ceremony
The blessing of wine, called ‘Kiddush’,
literally means sanctification. It is practiced before
the Sabbath and all festival meals.
Wine is an integral part of the Jewish wedding ceremony.
The couple drink from one cup following the recital
of their betrothal blessings. A second cup of wine
is used for the Seven Blessings or ‘Sheva Brochos’,
which are used to mark the unification of two souls
into one and to extol happiness upon them.
At the end of the service, a wine glass is broken
to signify the fall of the Temple, reminding all present
that despite our happy celebrations, Jews always retain
a reverence to G-d and mourn the loss of their holy
Just as ‘kiddush’ is the sanctification
of the Sabbath, the wedding ceremony is referred to
as ‘kiddushin’ and literally translates
as the sanctification of the bride and groom to each
Wine - a Fundamental Part of
Wine is especially integrated into two important
festivals. The Passover ‘seder’ (service)
takes place within the home and fulfils the requirement
to retell the story of the Exodus from Egypt, thus
ensuring each new generation understands their transition
from slavery to freedom. During the service there
is an obligation to drink four cups of wine which
mark the four expressions of deliverance promised
by G-d, “I will bring out”, “I will
deliver”, “I will redeem” and “I
Purim is celebrated by reading the Scroll of Esther,
the ‘Megillah’, and in most chapters there
is reference to heavy drinking. It concludes with
Mordecai's instruction to the entire Jewish people
to celebrate these days as "days of drinking
and rejoicing" (Esther 9:22). On Purim it is
therefore considered a ‘mitzvah’ (good
deed) to become so drunk that one cannot distinguish
between the names of two of the characters in the
Purim story; Haman (the Jew’s enemy) and Mordechai
Filming Jewish celebrations and rituals involving
It is forbidden to film on the Sabbath but it is
possible to reconstruct the ‘kiddush’
prayers to demonstrate the weekly ceremonial usage
of wine within Sabbath celebrations. This would make
great footage, providing classic Judaic symbolism;
involving the famous plaited ‘challah’
bread, a goblet of wine and the Shabbat candles. It
is a Jewish ritual that has continued despite the
dispersion of Jews across the Diaspora; acting as
a common thread that binds the Jewish nation together
as they celebrate Shabbat in diverse communities around
Another memorable image would be the use of wine
within the wedding ceremony. Here wine is used as
a symbol of life and joy. Two cups of wine are used
within the ceremony and a wine glass is ceremoniously
broken at the end of proceedings. These rituals are
ancient and would make wonderful footage, demonstrating
the continued importance wine has within religious
Filming Purim celebrations is a particularly colorful
(and noisy) affair. The kids (and some adults) get
dressed up in costumes and have a host of ‘gragers’
(noisy rattles and other loud instruments) that are
used to ‘blot out the name of Haman’ whenever
it is read from the Megillah. The wine is consumed
at a Purim feast, which is traditionally shared among
friends and family.
The Modern Wine Revolution
The biggest injection of investment into wine production
in Israel came from Baron Edmond de Rothschild, who
funded vineyards for the early Zionists to tend.
The industry was built up through kibbutzim, moshavim
and other agricultural communities and the country
today is divided into five areas of wine growing:
• Galil (Galilee)
• Judean Hills
• Shimshon (Samson)
• Sharon plain
• Golan Heights
Israel is world renowned in the fields of agriculture,
science and technology and using these three specialisms,
Israeli wine growers have mastered irrigation, soil
deficiencies and other challenges, in order to improve
the quality of Israeli wine beyond recognition.
Since the dawn of the second millennium, there has
been a growth of ‘boutique wineries’ throughout
Israel, many of which are in the Judean Hills and
Note to Film Makers
Documenting the ancient roots and ultimate destruction
of the wine industry in Israel could make for an interesting
film topic. It could be married up with a description
of the current resurgence of Israeli wineries, perhaps
looking into the scientific and technological developments
that enabled this to happen. The new trend for boutique
wineries is also said by some to be due to a desire
to work the land in traditional ways, rekindling old
ways of life. This would also give any documentary
a personal and emotive touch.
Capturing Vineyards and Wine Tours on Film
The whole process of winemaking can be captured on
film. Many vineyards offer wine tours and below are
Kibbutz Tzora is located in the biblical area of
Samson, which spans from the Judean Hills and coastal
plains. It is a traditional wine making area and the
Kibbutz has an established vineyard and winery. Each
year on November 29 they have an event to celebrate
the release of the season’s new wines. There
are lectures and tours, which include grape picking
in the early hours of the morning (in harvest season),
as well as a fun wine making workshop for the kids,
including stomping the grapes.
Mony Winery is owned by an Arab-Christian family
and is located in Dir-Rif’at. Close by is a
beautiful church which has the word ‘peace’
written on the ceiling in 340 languages. The area
is spectacular, offering a panoramic view of the Mony
vineyard and olive groves.
Wine is a theme that stems from the bible but continues
to flow through modern Jewish rituals and celebrations.
Capturing the story of wine making in Israel and visiting
picturesque rural vineyards and archaeological sites
would really bring the subject to life and document
a story that, through scientific effort and idealistic
verve, has the happy ending of a vibrant wine industry
returned to the Holy Land.