פנחס ולרשטיין
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Yesha harvest 2009: Wine and settlements
Winery owners wish to expand approved project to include the building of several vacation homes next to their vineyard, only a km away from illegal outpost Migron

The Psagot Vineyard and Winery will likely cause fermentation among leftist spirits, as well as among the grapes. The project, which was almost demolished once, has its roots near the controversial outpost of Migron.


In 2008, the State upheld the evacuation order for the Migron outpost, but proposed relocating its residents to a new neighborhood under the municipal jurisdiction of Adam (Geva Binyamin), a settlement located about three miles northeast of Jerusalem. 


While this issue is up in the air, the Yesha Council is pursuing building projects one kilometer away.  The Council – the representative of Jewish settlements – decided to "work in an institutionalized manner and build something large in the area" along the Migron mountain range, Pinchas Wallerstein, Director-General of the Yesha Council, told Ynet.


"I had the feeling that we would not get permission to build a residential settlement there, but would get permission for some sort of commercial area," he said.


Once granted, Yesha representatives decided to kill two birds with one stone and save the vineyard, originally in the settlement of Psagot, which had been condemned.  "We said, 'if you're going to destroy Psagot Vineyard, move it to an alternate location' and we asked that it be moved near Migron," Wallerstein recounted.


Bigger and better

Vineyard owners Naama and Yaakov Berg uprooted, literally, the agriculture project they had built in Psagot and relocated it to the mountain-range near Migron. At the same time, they enlarged the endeavor. 


Some 70,000 bottles are now produced annually by the vineyard.  Sixty percent of this product - made with grapes from Psagot, Kiryat Arba, Hebron, Gush Etzion, the Shilo Valley and Har Bracha - is exported to the United States, the United Kingdom, Panama, France, and Australia; the rest is sold within Israel.


The owners pay a hefty 17 Euro fee on every bottle as a 'fine' for growing and producing the beverage in the West Bank. But despite the resulting high price of the bottles, the vineyard is able to find buyers abroad and the owners display with pride prizes that their vintages have won in Europe.


Meanwhile, the project has expanded beyond a mere vineyard. Now that a road to the area has been paved, some 20 vacation homes are expected to be built next to the vineyard. In this way, the commercial vineyard will lead to wider project, including residential areas.


"This is not a vineyard within a settlement. This is an independent settlement – another spot on the map," the council chief emphasized, seemingly alluding to the controversial legal status of Migron.


Nonetheless, it seems that the philosophy surrounding the vineyards is the same one that prompted the creation of Migron itself, that of increasing, according to Wallerstein, the "Israeli presence with Israeli sovereignty in all of the land."


In an ironic twist, builders of the vineyard claim that "Peace Now" had a hand in increasing the scope of the project, saying the enlargement was conceived in response to a September 2004 incident when members of the left-wing organization took a trailer on the mountain-range and moved it in front of the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv, as an act of protest against settlement-building.


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