Israeli Beer Tax
I was going to write about the tasting that took place last Wednesday, but drinking notes has been the last thing since this tasting. As we were gathering, the newsflash appeared on the smartphones screens. Israel arrogant Prime Minister and his puppet Minister of Finances raised the tax on beer production.
Raised? Nearly doubled.
Why beer? Because they can, I guess.
See, wine making isn’t taxed. Why? because they can’t. Wine has a powerful lobby backed by kiddush-saying voters.
This came as a shock to the small, expanding, thriving beer community here in the country. To the people who put their love and money on equipment and facilities. To those who grew and needed to hire workers and provide income to more people. To their families. To the tourism and hospitality industries, small retail stores, and fans of craft beer.
Pioneer brewer David Cohen from the Dancing Camel Brewing Co. posted the following words in PM Netanyahu’s Facebook page. David makes great beer and owns the coolest pub in Tel Aviv and I’m shamelessly copying his letter to this blog. We don’t see eye to eye on most sociopolitical issues and some of the sentiments expressed in his letter are far from anything Your Humble Servant stands for, but please read. Change a word here, a sentence there, and you’ll get the story of more than 20 craft brewers and and an unknown number of homebrewers who are eager to join the local craft beer revolution.
July 29, 2012
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
My name is David Cohen. I made Aliya from New Jersey nine years ago. Six years ago I founded the Dancing Camel Brewing Company in Tel Aviv, Israel’s first production microbrewery. I asked for no government subsidy, I received no government handout. I invested my own money – every last penny that I saved from working for 20 years as a CPA in New York. I brought additional investment – from the US, from Russia, from people who were excited about the mission of the brewery – to reestablish a culture that traces its roots in Judaism back thousands of years.
It has not been easy, Mr. Prime Minister. Whether from the language, the business culture, or the stifling beauracracy, I have endured obstacles at every stage of the way. I have endured personal traumas as well, including a divorce that stemmed from our Aliya and the loss of my children as a result. I have done this because I refused to be shaken from the belief that this is my home and that this is where the history of the Jewish people will be written for the next 2000 years. My father ז”ל used to refer to Israel as a “Tiny Dam” with torrents of water pushing from all sides. One more person pushing on the wall could be the difference between the wall collapsing or the wall standing firm for our children.
Mr. Prime Minister, I know that you are responsible for the well-being of the entire nation. I know that you have a monumental task in trying to keep the Israeli economy healthy while the rest of the world is in shambles. I voted for you because I believed in you and I share your philosophy of fiscal restraint. And I am prepared to shoulder my burden, as I’m sure most of the Israeli public is, when it comes to income tax, VAT and any other tax that falls uniformly on the population. However, last week, your finance-minister’s office levied a tax on beer production that will quite frankly, shut my business. I can not absorb a tax increase that literally doubled overnight since my business is struggling as it is. I will be forced to pass this tax on and as a result, sales will fall. I will be forced to fire our workers and shut our doors. I will be left with nothing after nine years of Aliya, other then the staggering debts which I have personally accumulated.
I am not alone, Mr. Prime Minister. The Boutique Beer industry in Israel is only just now getting off the ground. With over 25 licensed breweries, we have brought tourism, employment and national pride to a global industry that traces its very roots to this region. These breweries have been started, largely by individuals with similar stories to mine. People with a dream, a passion and the drive to build something from their own sweat and money, where nothing previously existed. I ask you Mr. Prime Minister – are these the type of people you want to drive into bankruptcy?
Bibi, I am imploring you, I am begging you, for my own well being but also for the well-being of the country, don’t cast away people like us. You know that back in the US I would have 100 congressmen clamoring to sign a petition. Here, I do not know where else to turn.
Very truly yours,
The Dancing Camel Brewing Co., Ltd.