2005 wasn’t an easy time in Israel and in the Samarian Region, in particular. The Second Intifada was still going strong, with shootings and rock throwing becoming a routine occurrence. But through it all, and against all odds, while people were moving out of this area because of the growing terror attacks in the region, Amichai Luria stayed strong and believed that God would bless his work and the winery. In his winery brochure, he quotes Jacob’s blessing to his son, Joseph:
“From the God of your father will be your help, and the Almighty will bless you, blessings from the heavens above, blessings from the deeps that lie beneath…” (Genesis 49:25)
Amichai suffered a work accident, while working as a handyman, in 2005, and needed to rest up at home, so he experimented with making wine. He and his wife loved to produce homemade goods. They grew their own vegetables, made bread from scratch and made wine at home. When the owner of the newly-established Shiloh Winery tasted Amichai’s wine at a local fair, he turned to Amichai:
“Wow! I’ve never tasted a wine so flavorful and with such a unique aroma!”
“The flavor comes from the spiritual connection of the holy grapes growing in the Land of the Bible, proving the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy,” Amichai replied.
He immediately offered Amichai a job at his winery!
Amichai was under the illusion that winemaking was an easier job than his previous one, so he accepted the position. Boy, was he wrong!
When Amichai joined the winery, it had just had its first harvest and had produced about 20,000 bottles of wine. Today, each harvest produces about 200,000 bottles of wine, many of which have won awards in competitions around the world.
The winery is in the process of expansion, but this is not a quick process. Amichai explains, “Increasing production in something unique like wine is not like making more of a different kind of product, where all you have to do is copy, paste and produce more. Wine is an art, so if you want to increase production and keep the same quality, you have to do it gradually, no matter what. Even if I have enough grapes, enough room and enough staff, I still have to expand gradually in order to stay high-quality and consistent.”
The winery buys its grapes from vineyards all over Israel, but particularly from Judea, Benjamin and Samaria, in the areas between Hebron and Itamar.
The decision to do business with vineyards in Judea and Samaria is practical. The grapes in this area are of the highest quality. The cool nights and warm days of the Judean and Samarian mountains, as well as the elevation (600-900 meters above sea level) are ideal for growing grapes.
But the decision is also ideological. The return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel and the production of wine in the ancient land of Benjamin is a fulfillment of the Divine promise made to the prophet Amos:
“And they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God.” (Amos 9:14-15)
According to Amichai, “There’s a reason why winemaking started here. The first capital of Israel – Shiloh – was here and people grew grapes here thousands of years ago. The area is full of ancient wine presses.”
Shortly after the Israelites settled in the Land of Israel in biblical times, they placed the mobile Tabernacle permanently in the city of Shiloh. This city became a place of pilgrimage, where people came on each holiday to serve God and celebrate the festival. Towns were established and fields were planted on the surrounding hilltops and in the valleys. The land was discovered to have fertile soil for grape-growing and winemaking became popular, as can be seen from the archaeological evidence.
When deciding on their wine label, The Shiloh Winery chose a picture of an ox, as they are located in Joseph’s lot and the blessing Joseph received was that,
“He is like a first born bull… and his horns are the horns of the wild-ox.” (Deuteronomy 33:17)
Recently, right next to the vineyard, in Biblical Shiloh, a bull’s head was found carved on a five ton stone that was found at the entrance of the Ancient city of Shiloh.
Making wine in the Benjamin Region is not always easy. Even in periods where terrorism is held in check and the region enjoys relative calm, international forces interfere with anti-Israel campaigns. The BDS movement attempts to force Israel to endanger its citizens by forming a Palestinian state inside its borders.
Amichai calls these boycotts “setbacks” and doesn’t let them stop him from creating high-quality wine and selling it all over the world. Amicha is convinced that:
“Most people are not concerned about the origin of the wine and care primarily about the quality of the wine and its price. Shiloh wines have won Israeli and international awards and this is what interests the customers.”
And Amichai adds, “Nobody said life is supposed to be easy. BDS just encourages us to work harder. As JFK’s father said, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Lately, there is a growing demand from people who want to taste this Biblical wine of a prophecy coming true. As G-d told Jeremiah,
“Again you will plant vineyards on the hills of Samaria; the farmers will plant them and enjoy their fruit.” (Jeremiah 31:5)