When members of Hamas crossed the border of Gaza and launched attacks against Israelis on the morning of Oct. 7, winemaker Victor Schoenfeld quickly learned that a number of his employees at Golan Heights Winery were being called back to military service immediately. That included his son, Shai, who is currently serving his mandatory military service at an Air Force base but had been home for a weekend visit. “He’s been working 16-hour shifts every day since he returned to the base,” said Schoenfeld. “This will be remembered as the harvest of the war.”
Across Israel, many wineries were mid-harvest when Hamas’s attacks and Israel’s counterstrikes began. Red grapes were hanging on the vine and the most labor-intensive cellar work was unfinished. Now there are not enough employees to do it. Many wineries employ both Israelis and Palestinians and are worried for their staff on both sides of the conflict.
Additionally, many winemakers are feeling the pain of losing someone they knew in the attacks. Some know hostages being held by Hamas. And while the country remains both at war and in mourning, restaurants are shuttered and no one is celebrating with wine.
Winery Workers Called to War
Ido Lewinsohn, head winemaker at the country’s largest winery, Barkan, had finished with harvest work, but lost all of the employees to military service at his own eponymous winery, which had just begun its first harvest in its new cellars. “We are wine producers, which seems so insignificant right now.”
Many winemakers had completed harvest before the war began but are grappling with constant anxiety and fears of attack, as rockets continue to be launched into Israel. And the collective heartbreak for the dead and for the hostages has been crippling.
“Everyone is in grief in Israel. There is so much shock and sadness—wine seems very minor right now,” said Eran Pick of Tzora winery in the Judean Hills. Pick spoke to Wine Spectator 30 minutes after he emerged from a shelter underneath his winery—incoming missiles had been landing nearby and Tzora is just 25 miles from the border with Gaza. Domaine du Castel, another leading winery in the region, had a rocket land in one of its vineyards.[article-img-container][src=2023-11/ns_israel-damage-110123_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy Ramat Negev)] [alt= Wine bottles destroyed by a rocket at Ramat Negev in Israel.][end: article-img-container]
While established regions of Upper Galilee and Golan Heights are located farther north, they are close to the border of Lebanon, where Hezbollah has significant forces. Many people there have been evacuated due to rising tensions. At Recanati Winery in the Hefer Valley in Upper Galilee, owner Lenny Recanati reported that five of his production staff have been called back to military service, while three others have been instructed to leave their homes due to proximity to the Lebanese border.
Sorrow and fear are compounded by despair over an uncertain future. At Tzora, a quarter of Pick’s harvest staff this year were from Gaza—just a 40 minute drive away. “I was so proud of our diverse team—Arabs, Muslims, Orthodox Jews, Gazans, Ukranians—all working together. I worry about our business, our country, our future as a community. When will we all be able to work together like that again? Will we be able to rebuild the confidence and security that we shared?”[article-img-container][src=2023-11/ns_israel-harvest-110123_1600.jpg] [credit= (Courtesy Tzora)] [alt= Worker picking grapes at Israeli winery][end: article-img-container]
In a country as small as Israel, the October 7th attacks and the war have hit every industry and network directly. Daniel Lifshitz, a…
Source : https://www.winespectator.com/articles/war-and-israels-wine-harvest