Oktoberfest in the West Bank: A Beer Festival Comes to Taybeh

Palestinians of all factions, along with plenty of curious Israelis, will gather for the annual event Oct. 6-7

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Alexander Ho for TIME

If there’s one thing that can bring people together, it’s a decent beer. Palestinians of all factions, along with plenty of curious Israelis, will soon be gathering—as they have done since 2005—for Oktoberfest in the historic West Bank town of Taybeh. Normally a sleepy, hilltop place of 2000 souls, Taybeh’s population is expected to swell by 10 times when this year’s party takes place from Oct. 6-7.

As always, the beer—unpasteurized, preservative-free and handcrafted in small batches—will be supplied by Palestine’s only brewery, the Taybeh Brewing Company, run by the father and daughter team of Nadim and Madees Khoury. “When they hear of our Oktoberfest most people say, ‘Wow, Palestinians drink beer, they know how to party!’” says Madees, 26. “We’re showing a different Palestine to the one seen on the news.”

Of course, there will be some local variants to the Munich template. Traditional dabkeh (folk) musicians and local hip-hop outfits will be appearing alongside the traditional brass bands, and you’re more likely to encounter local cuisine instead of great plates of wurst (Madees particularly recommends booking a table at Peter’s Place). The setting too is less Bavaria and more Bible—in which, incidentally, the venerable Christian town of Taybeh rates a mention (under its old name of Ephraim). And as well as the ruined Byzantine church of St George (al-Khader), there’s a Crusader castle to discover.

Come nightfall, the lights of Jerusalem can be seen shimmering some 20-km away—and the region’s troubles can seem a good deal further. “Our Oktoberfest shows that it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or what your background is,” Madees says. “Here in Taybeh, everyone can come together, drink beer and celebrate life.”

PHOTOS: Inside Munich’s Oktoberfest

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