Deserts to Vineyards | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

Deserts to Vineyards

You can support the planting of vines through Wine on the Vine/ Wikimedia Commons

A new program lets donors fund both vines and charities in Israel

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Here is a new way for Diaspora Jews to connect to Israel: plant grape vines.

This is the basic idea behind a fairly new program called Wine on the Vine (WOTV) that partners with Israeli wineries and Israeli charities. Think of this as a millennial-driven reboot of the century-old JNF afforestation of Israel campaign.

For $18, donors can bankroll a vine and contribute money to an Israeli charity. On the WOTV website, supporters choose the number of vines they wish to underwrite, in which winery they want them planted, and the charity they’d like to benefit. Those interested can plant vines in their own name or dedicate a vine in honor of a loved one or major life event and receive a digital certificate.

As the website puts it: “With the simple click of a button, a grapevine goes into the soil, resources are directed to where they are needed, and at the end of all of this wine flows from these hills and valleys to every corner of the globe.”

WOTV has so far partnered with these Israeli wine producers: Carmel, Gush Etzion Winery, Jezreel Valley Winery, MAIA Winery, Psagot, Tabor, Tulip, and Yatir.

The charities one can choose to support through purchasing vines include as the Lone Soldier Center, which supports the more than 6,000 lone soldiers serving in the Israel Defense Forces, Esek M’Shelach, which empowers disadvantaged women to start their own businesses, BINA, a Jewish cultural and social action organization, Darca Schools, which provides Israeli high school students in lower income, peripheral communities a top-quality STEM education, as well as other groups working in education, social activism, cultural coexistence, and the creative realm.

All of this was explained to me by Adam Bellos, a 31-year-old Israeli entrepreneur and founder & CEO of The Israel Innovation Fund. WOTV is the headline project of TIIF, a nonprofit foundation—registered in the US but based largely in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem—whose mission it is to “bring the very best of contemporary Israeli culture to the rest of the globe and to accelerate the modernization of Jewish philanthropic world.”

The notion is simple yet innovative: Instead of planting trees, WOTV is encouraging people—regardless of religious affiliation—to invest in Israel’s land, culture, and commerce by investing in its wine. The intended benefit is threefold. Through planting vines, WOTV offers an opportunity for “those elsewhere…to literally root themselves in the soil of Israel,” and affords them another avenue to “raise money for causes that serve the needs of the people of Israel,” and also allows them to “support a 3,500-year Jewish cultural practice that connects with people all around the world, especially young people.”

“We don’t need trees anymore,” says Bellos emphatically, “we need vines.”

An ardent Zionist, Bellos has been devoting his time to “trying to figure out a way to reboot the Zionist movement for the next generation.”

TIFF is “about launching commercially viable projects that highlight Israel’s culture,” explains Bellos, “and everybody loves wine…it’s a totally new way to give and physically connect to Israel—you can gift somebody an Israeli vine for a wedding, birth, or a bris” or whatever.

As I contemplate this cool new approach to connecting with the people, culture, and land of Israel, I do so over a glass of the value-driven Psagot, Sinai, Jerusalem Mountains, 2016 ($19; mevushal): an uncomplicated, but very likeable and easy to drink blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 45% Shiraz; it is fresh, fruity, and food-friendly.


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