Bethlehem wine flows again across Israeli border

 The Israeli authorities are once again allowing wine made by the Salesian friary at Cremisan, outside Bethlehem on the West Bank, to pass into Israel.

In late November 2008 Cremisan's UK importer, 5th Gospel Retreats, informed its UK customers that they would not have wine in time for Christmas because the Israeli army for some weeks had not given permission for the lorries carrying the wine to enter Israel.

But on 4 December a truck carrying 12,000 bottles of Cremisan wine was permitted to leave the West Bank and crossed the checkpoint without delay. The wine has continued to leave for Israel since then. Although too late for the UK for Christmas, all the religious establishments in Israel had their wine delivered in time. The next shipment of Cremisan wine bound for the UK and Germany is due to leave Bethlehem early in January, and is due to reach the UK in mid-late February.

Della Shenton of 5th Gospel Retreats said: "At my meeting in Jerusalem on 18 December with an officer of the Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, we identified the critical seven-week period for export to the UK between early October and the end of November when permission was not given for the wines to leave the West Bank. This has now been resolved. The Israeli Authorities expressed to me their wish to help the Salesians and ensure that their wines reach the Christian church in Israel and worldwide, and gave me strong assurances that they will see that this happens."

"Many people and organisations have played their part in resolving this issue. I want especially to thank leaders in the Anglican and Catholic Churches in the UK, the Israeli Embassy in London, the British Embassy and Consulate in Israel, the Oxfam offices in Oxford and Jerusalem, as well as the Israeli Civil Administration for their assistance in investigating and resolving the problem. I would also like to thank the Salesian Community, parishioners, clergy, and our customers for their concern and support."

Although small by modern standards, the winery's organic production using classical Italian methods has made its table wines and brandy famous far beyond the region. See

Christians in the Holy Land and abroad buy the wine not just for its quality but because its purchase assists the economy of Bethlehem, which has been devastated by the drop in pilgrim numbers as a result of the political troubles of recent years.

Cremisan began producing wines 125 years ago, but did not begin to export until 2006 when it appointed 5th Gospel Retreats (Della Shenton) a not-for-profit company in the UK and Fr Georg Dittrich in Germany as distributors. The majority of sales are of altar (communion) wine which is a pure, unadulterated wine, certified by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem for celebration of Mass.

Catholics tend to have white wine for Mass, whereas many Anglicans prefer a red wine. In response to many requests received by 5th Gospel Retreats this has now been produced by Cremisan especially for the Anglican and Protestant churches and the first bottles are expected to be available in the UK by Easter 2009.

The wines are sold principally by mail order and delivered in the UK to an increasing number of churches and religious establishments.

For further information please contact Della Shenton, 5th Gospel Retreats

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