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Made In The Negev: Gold In The Glass

Made In The Negev: Gold In The Glass

January 12, 2024

Business & Management, Negev Development & Community Programs

Negave advisory board members meet with the faculty of Ben-Gurion University in Sde Boker.

Jewish Standard — By law, the spirit called tequila can come only from a few places in Mexico.

But agave plants can grow in other deserts. There are other deserts in the world, other places with similar — but not exactly the same, never exactly the same, and that’s a good thing because that allows for the magic — soil, aridity, light, mystery, and other specifics and intangibles.

That means that while a spirit formally labeled tequila must come from Mexico, other spirits made from the heart of the agave, but instilled and distilled with the specifics of its own place of creation — its terroir — can be made elsewhere.

It can be made in the Negev.

That information came as welcome news to a group of six entrepreneurs and funders, all friends, who either belong to Kehilat Kesher in Englewood now, or used to belong there before they made aliyah. They’re all fervent Zionists, lovers of Israel, and they’re also fond of good food and fine wines.

The group decided to develop an agave business in Israel’s Negev, very close to the border with Gaza. When the state of Israel was recognized in 1948, there was an agave business there, the brainchild of the country’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. After initial success it had withered, but still it’s clear that the Negev is a good place to grow agave.

The group founded the company it calls Negave Estates about a year ago; it’s growing plants, building a distillery, and plans to release its first batch of spirits — with plants grown elsewhere, because it takes at least five or six years for the first agave plants to be ready to yield their hearts — next year.

Negave Estates embarked on their mission to Israel, making a necessary trip to Ben-Gurion University’s Sde Boker campus where their garden grows a species of locally grown agave. In addition, Negave’s advisory board met with experts from BGU to learn more about the Negev’s agriculture to help perfect their process.

“We will make it from ground to glass, and it will come entirely from the Negev,” said Negave CEO, David Niewood.

The recent Hamas acts on October 7 happened very close to Negave, but it only strengthened the founders’ resolve to keep going.

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