Ultra-Orthodox in Israel will soon no longer be the only ones to determine if the food is kosher

Inspector Meir Moshashvili checks that there are no small insects left in the salad served to guests at the Kamkura kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv. Eating insects is forbidden under Jewish dietary laws.Statue Noam Revkin Fenton

Meir Moshashvili carefully examines the lettuce leaves: he washes them in water with vinegar, holds them up to the light, washes them again and again – all to avoid leaving a small worm or egg between the leaves that guests can use. sluges. .

Now no one wants insects in a salad, but in this kosher restaurant in Tel Aviv it would be a mortal sin, because according to Jewish dietary laws, one is absolutely not allowed to eat insects. That’s why Moshashvili is in the kitchen: His organization Tzohar has been hired by the owner of restaurant Kamkura to check that everything served to the people here is truly kosher, so that religious guests can eat with peace of mind.

Moshahsvili does it patiently. Friendly. He pats people on the shoulders, makes jokes and laughs so heartily at it. Yet some Israelis see this great gentle giant (Moshashvili is a tall man with mischievous blue eyes) as a threat. He is not ultra-Orthodox, while the field of kosher certification has been the exclusive domain of men in black for decades. But the government will put an end to that.

Many reforms

It is just one of many reforms on the agenda, as ultra-Orthodox parties are no longer in government for the first time in a long time. The law on kosher phones (which do not connect to the Internet and where thousands of numbers are blocked) is being changed, and there is talk of more freedom for women who want to pray at the Wailing Wall.

“Obviously, there is strong opposition from the ultra-Orthodox,” said Shlomit Ravitzky Tur-Paz, director of the Center for Religion, Nation and State at the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI). “They are losing power with this. As long as ultra-Orthodox parties were in government, they could block any religious reform in return for their support on other issues. Now it’s over.”

The cuisine of the kosher restaurant Kamkura in Tel Aviv.  Statue Noam Revkin Fenton

The cuisine of the kosher restaurant Kamkura in Tel Aviv.Statue Noam Revkin Fenton

Ravitzky Tur-Paz stresses that it is not a battle between the ultra-Orthodox and the secular section of the population. ‘They will be concerned about who is carrying out the inspections. It is precisely religious Jews like Prime Minister Bennett who do not want only the ultra-Orthodox to deal with such religious and social issues. ‘

Good source of income

Besides power, it is also about money. About 70 percent of Israel’s population complies with dietary laws to some degree, so for many business owners it is necessary to be able to present a kosher certificate. You have to pay for it, and according to a study by IDI, it costs restaurants, shops and hotels around 90 million euros a year. A significant source of income that the ultra-Orthodox do not like to lose.

“They warn that lots of Jews will soon be eating forbidden food,” said Alon Ahronovich, the owner of the restaurant where Moshashvili works. “But it’s nonsense.” He stands in the kitchen, where people, dressed in crisp white chef uniforms, navigate between the steel counters and the stoves. “We all know what they really care about.”

Another cousin with the same product

Ahronovich himself is not religious, but decided to open a Japanese kosher restaurant with his business partner because they do not want to be open on Saturdays in the Sabbath. This is a challenge, especially with Japanese cuisine, but Moshashvili helps them abide by all the rules. ‘A rabbinical inspector only complains’ no’ when he sees something he does not like or he has another cousin who imports the same product at a much higher price that he thinks meets the requirements. Moshashvili is thinking of us. ‘

A milk and meat certificate from Tzohar that gives guests at Kamkura restaurant the opportunity to see that the food here is kosher.  The word

A milk and meat certificate from Tzohar that gives guests at Kamkura restaurant the opportunity to see that the food here is kosher. However, the word “kosher” should not appear on the certificates, as the food inspections were not carried out through the chief rabbinate. This law will be amended on January 1, 2023.Statue Noam Revkin Fenton

That is why Ahranovich has chosen certification from Tzohar. This organization was founded in 1995, after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an ultra-Orthodox man. “He was outraged that Rabin wanted to make peace with the Palestinians,” said Oren Dovdevani, a rabbi working for Tzohar. “People were shocked that our society was apparently so divided about what Judaism stands for that they killed each other.”

Dovdevani (49) sits on a terrace in Modi’in, a city in central Israel, where white newly built houses climb against green hills. His beard is short shaven and he speaks in a soft voice and formulates his words very precisely. Because Judaism belongs to all of us and not to a particular sect, a group of people then decided to found Tzohar: an organization to keep the dialogue going and celebrate the common elements of our faith without condemning individual choices. ‘

Tzohar now conducts one-third of religious weddings in Israel and inspects 10 percent of all restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. So it is a formidable competitor to the rabbinate, Dovdevani nods. “I even left the rabbinate myself because I do not believe they are on the right track. It cost me friends. ‘

Meir Moshashvili inspects whether the items used in the kosher restaurant Kamkura comply with the rules of the dietary laws.  Statue Noam Revkin Fenton

Meir Moshashvili inspects whether the items used in the kosher restaurant Kamkura comply with the rules of the dietary laws.Statue Noam Revkin Fenton

Dovdevani welcomes the fact that this government finally dares to tackle the laws. From 2023, Tzohar will be allowed to use the word ‘kosher’ on the certificates she issues after inspections – a word that the rabbinate still has the exclusive right to. ‘Provided that the government, which is very vulnerable because it consists of many parties with completely different backgrounds, can persevere until then.’ He smiles. “I have never prayed for politicians, but now I pray every day for them to stay in power.”


Jewish dietary laws are strict, and the list of forbidden ingredients is long. For example, land animals with cleaved hooves should only be eaten, which must also chew their food. So beef and goat, but no pig or hare. All forbidden flying animals are listed in the holy books, and everything that comes out of the water must have fins and scales.

And then there is the rule that milk and meat must remain strictly separated: no sandwich with sausage and butter, but also no coffee with milk after eating a steak. Dishes, cutlery and pans are used either for meat products or for dairy products.

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