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He lifted up the bottle and studiously examined the label, a gentle squint revealing his disapproval. The wine was from the contested territories. While spending a year in Israel doing anthropological research for my PhD on human genetics and its role in national identity formation, I realized during a dinner party that in Israel wine is both a political and a religious issue. Wine is an important part of identity formation and wine from the contested territories – what some call Judea and Samaria, or the West Bank – is a hotly divisive issue. Some Israelis see the planting of vineyards in this area as an illegitimate and exclusive claim on the land at the expense of the Palestinians, while others see Jewish return to the area as a realization of ancient Biblical prophecies, as part of a predestined redemption. After I finished my project on human genetics, I decided to visit these wineries and interview the winemakers to better understand their beliefs and motivations for settling these areas; and in particular, to get a sense of the symbolic and spiritual importance of wine in their lives. A few years later, after I started a job as an Assistant Professor of Sociology in Singapore, where my research was supported with a generous start-up grant, I began learning about photography and film, leading me to return to Israel to interview the region’s winemakers on camera. This film is the product of those trips and I hope that by understanding the beliefs and motivations of the winemakers, we may better understand the complexity of this fraught region and also learn something about the ancient and important role of wine in religious Jewish life.

Ian McGonigle

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