18 Adar 5770
March 4, 2010
For those of you who have heard me lecture you are familiar with my line “not everything in Israel is kosher, not even in Jerusalem”. Sadly, this statement is true and we all hope one day, we can land in Ben-Gurion International Airport knowing we can reach out at anything we see, pay for I and make a bracha, but for now, sorry, this is not the case.
For those living here, the same is true. Take the shuk in Jerusalem for example, Machane Yehuda. The candy store on Agrippas Street next to Marzipan Bakery regularly leaves opened bars of chocolate on display for passersby to enjoy, realizing many will then enter and make a purchase. I have tried, without success to persuade them to open the Israeli bars [only], the ones with kosher certification. On more than a few occasions I saw the chocolates offered are from Europe, containing liqueur or other fillings, all requiring a hechsher, not to mention the chocolate itself. People pass by and simply help themselves without thinking, yet many would never consider purchasing a chocolate without a hechsher to bring home. The list is sadly too long but people simply eat without thinking!
For our new subscribers who are now questioning “It’s only chocolate, what can be wrong”, please see the November 2009 article on the JKN website entitled “Candy is Dandy” and you will understand.
Of late, the number of restaurants, cafés and other eateries advertising one standard of kosher and delivering another is increasingly common, but more worrisome perhaps are restaurants advertising as “kosher” when in fact, they do not have a hechsher, and one cannot know if the place is kosher or not. It amazes me how too many who seek kosher are willing to operate on the premise that a place is kosher until proven otherwise because we are in Israel.
Even worse is a restaurant advertising itself as “kosher”, yet serving meat and milk, not to mention seafood. Yes, you read correctly. Such is the case with Gulf Restaurant in Eilat.
The matter was brought to my attention by a new immigrant from N. America who was looking for somewhere to eat in Eilat, stumbling across this place. The sign of the store did not say “kosher”, but then again, many many stores do not and they are legitimately kosher. The flyers handed out (see photo below) do however say kosher but fortunately for this young man, he reads English too. (The employee handing out the flyers also assured this new immigrant that the restaurant was indeed kosher). The Hebrew side of the flyer menu presents an array of meats and fish dishes – so far, all is fine. The English side however tells the real story, also boasting “pasta, pizzas, lasagna, all types of salads, hot soups, and creamed seafood”.
Remember, if you insist on seeing a current valid kosher certificate you could not fall prey here! (The matter has been brought to the attention of Rabbi Rafi Yochai’s Chief Rabbinate Kashrut Fraud Unit).
Please, never ‘assume’ and never rely on a sign or store claim of “kosher”. You must see a valid kosher certificate, an original document, not a photocopy. The business name and address on the certificate must match the location and it must be valid, not expired, not even one day past the expiration date will do.
There are too many stores right here in Jerusalem with signs reading “kosher” and/or “mehadrin” yet they lack any kashrut certificate.
Making things worse, many among those taken in by the signs are outwardly chareidi looking and when others see them eating, they make the erroneous assumption that the place is just fine. The guys in black suits get duped as do those with kippot srugot and those without kippot.
Do not rely on seeing people inside eating, on religious looking employees, or even on photos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l and Rav Kadouri zt”l on the walls – you must see a valid certificate and then decide if that certifying agency adheres to your standard.
It is not all that complicated once you come to terms with the realization that a place is not assumed to be kosher until proven otherwise, but quite the contrary, as is the case anywhere else in the world.
At the end of the day, we are our own mashgichim and we have the last say as to what foods we deem acceptable and ingest or not. Store employees are usually repeating what they are told, few really understanding kashrus and they cannot be relied upon to determine the kosher integrity of a store.
Please continue sending me reports with accompanying photos so I can put the word out. We are making a difference, albeit slowly, but it can happen.