What do wine, snails and the Biblical color tekhelet have to do with one another?
Just ask Tanya Winery. The winery designed a limited edition “Tekhelet” vintage wine label in honor of the June 1 opening of “Out of the Blue,” a Bible Lands Museum exhibit. Tekhelet is a vibrant blue dye mentioned 49 times in the Hebrew Bible and later chosen as the central color of Israel’s national flag.
The wine is named after the first daughter of Tanya owner and winemaker Yoram Cohen.
“When my wife and I married, she said that our first daughter will be named Tekhelet,” said Cohen, whose winery is based in Ofra, in the Binyamina region of Israel. He said that like wine and the Biblical color “Tekhelet is like a deep sea, the sky, something elevated. It doesn’t sink down to the mundane.”
When Director of the Bible Lands Museum and wine lover Amanda Weiss found out about the Tanya wine with the same namesake as her museum’s exhibition she “knew it was something we had to follow up on.”
According to Weiss, wine, the Bible, and the new exhibit go together naturally.
“Wine is a very important part of the Bible and Jewish ritual and practice,” Weiss told Breaking Israel News. “There isn’t a holiday or Shabbat that we don’t bless over wine, and it’s part of the fabric of society in modern Israel. We have this flourishing industry of boutique wineries.”
Weiss noted that the blessings we say over the wine on Shabbat and every holiday are “something that unite us as Jewish people around the world. The Bible Lands Museum, too, is all about uniting through understanding, learning, and appreciating our history in this region,” she said.
“Grapes and vineyards play a prominent role throughout Tanakh,” said Weisz. “The first cultivated plants mentioned in the Bible were grapevines: ‘Noach, the tiller of soil, was the first to plant a vineyard’ (Genesis 9:20). When Moshe sent the 12 spies to scout out Eretz Yisrael, the book of Bamidbar (13:23) records that they returned with a sample of grapes that was so large it had to be carried on poles by strong men, an image that now serves as the logo of Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.”
Winemaking in this region and the story of the color tekhelet are similar in that they were common in Israel in Biblical times, and only recently rediscovered and revitalized in this land.
Archaeological evidence of ancient wine presses point to the fact that the region has a vibrant history of viticulture and winemaking, and the modern and award-winning wine industry in Israel is merely a revitalization of the ancient history.
So too, the color tekhelet is a story of the Bible coming to life in modern Israel. Biblical sources describe it as a pure color that made up the High Priest’s robe and thread used in his headdress, as well as the color used on tzitzit (tassels of the Jewish tallit, or prayer shawl) to remind the Jewish people of God and his commandments.
“Speak to B’nei Yisrael and instruct them to make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments throughout the ages; let them attach a cord of blue to the fringe at each corner.” (Numbers 15:38)
The origin of the color baffled many for centuries, only to be recently identified by marine biologists and Talmudic researchers who discovered the source– murex snails indigenous to the Mediterranean shores, near Haifa.
The color, similar to wine, was revived alongside the modern State of Israel, as the national flag of the newly established state of Israel featured two tekhelet stripes with a Star of David at its center.
Because of these many connections, when Weiss had previously met Cohen at wine festivals, she called him a “kindred spirit.”
“Our museum was founded with a neshamah (soul) that is not unlike Cohen’s connection to making wine,” Weiss told Breaking Israel News. “Both of us strive to touch people’s hearts and souls, whether with nice libations or exquisite exhibitions.”
“The Tekhelet series of our Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot is four years old. Like the color, the wine is completely natural like a blue sky, without sulfites, chemicals, filtration, or added yeast for fermentation,” said Cohen.
The limited edition wine label is the logo of “Out of the Blue,” exhibition, featuring lapis lazuli (tekhelet colored stones imported from Afghanistan to the ancient Near East, and prized for its heavenly color of God’s throne and footstool) arranged in circle that reflects the pools found on the coastline near Haifa that were used to farm the snails that produced the ancient color. The special edition Tekhelet wine is now sold in the Bible Lands Museum gift shop.
Weiss invited Breaking Israel News readers to visit the museum, perhaps even over a glass of Tekhelet wine.
“Anything with wine is a good combination,” Weiss said. “What could be more exciting than to tie this all together with a blue thread?”