Situated about seven miles from Jerusalem is one of the most beautiful wineries you will ever encounter: the Cremisan Wine Estate. It has all the qualities of an Instagram-perfect landscape—sloping hills, breathtakingly tall pine trees, and wide-open fields—plus a rare selection of wines made with grapes that have been cultivated on the land for hundreds of years.
The winery also happens to sit directly on top of one of the most contentious borders in the world: that of Israel and Palestine. Cremisan is a true study in boundary breaking. While many of the grapes are grown on the so-called Israeli side, the wine production happens largely on the so-called Palestinian side. This may seem like an unconventional set-up—and it is—but in fact, the winery, its buildings, and its vineyards have existed for centuries, predating even the beginnings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the late nineteenth century.
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This area is just like heaven," says George Ziad Bitar. "We understand there are problems with the political situation, but we invite people to come visit us. Because if you don't see it with your own eyes you will never understand how beautiful it is."
Cremisan was built in 1863 by an Italian missionary named Antonio Bellone—it was originally meant to function as a shelter for orphans. In order to keep the shelter running and guarantee the orphans work, Bellone established a winery for producing mass wine, used for church proceedings. Before his death, he partnered with Don Bosco, the founder of the Salesian congregation (a group of Roman Catholics), and since then, the Salesian community has supported the winery—turning it into an institute for philosophical studies and cultivating new vineyards and olive groves. The name, "Cremisan" comes from "Kerem Zan," a reference to the Zan grape varietal that grows on the vineyard.