Sunday, July 29, 2012

Getting your message out

Many words have been written in the past few days about the sudden, and some say draconian, doubling of the production tax on beer. Anger, desperation, contempt, and disbelief were the common response of a people who so their beloved industry dealt what many feel would be a death blow.

Of the many posts that have gone past my facebook feed, none was as heartfelt, simple, direct, and desperate as the words of David Cohen, owner and proprietor of the Dancing Camel brewery pub. David wrote his letter to the Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, and attempted to post it on Bibi's official page. Sadly the post was taken down within a few minutes. Others, myself included, who attempted to post the letter, encountered similarly swift removal.

We, members of the beer community of Israel, feel that our voice has a right to be heard. And while the Prime Minister of this country does not, apparently, believe in any form of free speech that criticizes him, and will deny such a message an official stage, we welcome it. Therefore, it is my honor to post David's letter here in it entirety. I know well that not many people read this blog, but any person that reads this letter because it is posted here is one more than the Prime Minister would like. I did not ask David for his permission to re-post this, but somehow I don't think he would mind.:

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"לused 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.
הגמבל המרקד
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,
David Cohen
The Dancing Camel Brewing Co., Ltd.

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