This paper uses a foundation of theory on food studies and religious identity, readings from the Bible, and a look at winemaking as part of the Zionist project to show how wineries in Israeli settlements use religious terroir to justify their presence in the West Bank. This research has important implications in the field of food studies and in studies of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Few scholars have examined wineries and terroir as tools of settlement in the West Bank. By focusing on wine as a product and mechanism of settlement, we can be more critical of claims about the history of Jewish winemaking, its connections to contemporary winemaking in Israel, the return to Israel as biblical necessity, and the political rhetoric of settlers.
Terroir is the set of conditions that make wine unique: soil content, climate, elevation, winemaking philosophy, local traditions, and, I argue, religion. This paper is unique because it adds another understanding of terroir to wine scholarship. I build on theories of wine, terroir, and food myths from authors like Matt Harvey, Marion Demossier, and Kaori O’Connor. If, as scholarship suggests, terroir connects people to the land whence wine comes and people who have consumed from the land before, and if the dominant national identity overtly deploys religious symbolism, then, I propose, religion is part of terroir and the connections made between contemporary consumers and the mythic history of wine.
To demonstrate the important role that religion plays in the construction of terroir, I look at two wineries in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The first is Itamar, which I toured in person. I analyze what I saw alongside the online presence of another settlement, Psagot, with help from work by Anshel Pfeffer, Ian McGonigle, Charles Selengut, and a report by Who Profits. My research shows that religion is part of what defines terroir and settlers are using religious terroir to justify their presence in the West Bank. They claim that their religious call to winemaking is more important than the international laws they are breaking. And because of the nature of terroir, wine production offers them a unique and seemingly timeless and apolitical connection to the land.