New York’s and Israel’s grape expectations


It’s not exactly a case of sour grapes. In fact, it’s too many cases of sweet grapes.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer is pressing Israel to lower its tariff on grape juice so that New York State farmers, who are stuck with a bumper crop of grapes this year, can more effectively compete in the Jewish state’s juice market.

According to numerous press reports, New York State is a hub of Concord grape growing, and the New Jersey-based kosher grape juice producer Kedem, a major exporter to Israel, is America’s second-largest consumer of this grape variety (after Welch’s).

Presumably such a move would make grape juice cheaper in Israel. But even without the lower prices, Israelis apparently are known in the industry for their grape juice consumption — an article in one upstate New York publication described grape juice as “a major diet staple” in Israel.

“Grape juice is a staple at Israeli dinner tables, and opening up the Israeli market, and any other foreign market, to more American grape juice exports would be a tremendous boon to Chautauqua County concord grape farmers,” Schumer said, according to the Times of Israel, which noted that most Kedem juice in Israel is “drunk by religious Jews, especially immigrants from the US who know the product, at their Friday night Shabbat tables.”

Whether or not Israel agrees to cut the tariff (apparently the United States eliminated its own in 2013), you have to admit there is something ironic about the Jewish state importing the fruit of the vine all the way from the New World. After all, grapes are one of the seven species, those agricultural products listed in the Bible as special products of the Land of Israel.

Wine has become one of Israel’s major exports, and grapes and grapevines are mentioned frequently in the Bible — “Song of Songs” alone has 24 references to grapes, wine or vineyard, some of them downright erotic.

Schumer is a longtime advocate for Israel, and it’s unlikely the grape tariff will ever rival West Bank settlements as a source of U.S.-Israel tensions. But perhaps it’s time for some entrepreneur — either in Israel or New York State — to develop a popular new use for the fruit. Let us know if you hear of anything through the grapevine.

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