Summer is Upon Us…

13 Tammuz 5772 – July 3, 2012

Summer is upon us and for many of JKN readers this means an upcoming visit to Eretz Yisrael. As you would expect, permit me to address the kashrus aspect of your upcoming visit.

Experience has taught me that while many people do dine out when in Israel, few really do any research, preferring to simply rely on the wealth of reassuring signs such as “glatt”, “mehadrin” and “badatz” to name a few. I would say that if the fellow who decided to incorporate “mehadrin” and “badatz” into Israel’s kosher lexicon was the CEO of a corporation, he would have had his contract renewed with a handsome bonus for what these two words have done for the food industry in Israel — legitimate kashrus has not succeeded in accomplishing over many years. These words have become the 21st century buzz words for attracting the kosher consumer in Israel, the growing number of residents and visitors who live with the constant conflict of “I must eat out” and “It must be badatz”.

Please, share with me what “badatz” means to you. I would genuinely be interested in hearing what the word “mehadrin” does to embrace your confidence, and why these words signal the ‘all clear’ regarding the many kosher concerns that we as consumers should be aware of.

What I mean to say is that a legitimate kosher establishment will display a kashrut certificate, an original document from a legitimate hashgacha. The work “legitimate” as it is used here is defined by me as a hashgacha recognized by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. Feel free to visit the JKN page showing photos of the many ‘unauthorized’ kosher certificates as per the Chief Rabbinate.  Many of these will greet you in stores throughout the capital and elsewhere. So please remember, “mehadrin” and “badatz” without the backing of a legitimate valid kashrut certificate are meaningless claims!

The next step is to educate yourself as to your standard in your day-to-day life, as well becoming familiar with the basics of halacha to permit you to determine what hechsher or hechsherim is in line with your kosher level, or as I call it, your “Kashrus Comfort Zone”. Alternatively, if you know a rabbi who is familiar with kashrus, particularly the reality in Israel today, it would be wise to consult with this rabbi prior to heading out or even before making hotel reservations from home ahead of your trip. Once you are booked in a hotel is a bit late to begin determining if the kashrus is what you are looking for.

Once again, I am compelled to add that too many rabbis are quick to direct you to one hashgacha or another without really having firsthand knowledge. Please, ask your rabbi when he last visited with any kashrus officials in Israel, or toured restaurant kitchens or met with representatives of any of the hashgachas in Israel to get an understanding of what is and is not acceptable. I do not intend to sound uppity or chutzpadik, but I do wish to drive the point home. The kosher reality in Israel is quite different, as one may expect being 6,500 miles from N. America.

The system in Israel as compared to N. America is as different as the national language and you owe it to yourself to understand as much as necessary to permit dinging out. Remember, there are differences between a hashgacha on a sealed packaged item in a supermarket and a hashgacha on a restaurant and there are serious issues that must be addressed.

For one thing, while you may be accustomed to seeing a mashgiach present in a New York City meat restaurant, this may not be the case here – in fact it is unlikely here. That is not something to be proud of, but it is today’s reality. This is just another reason why it is incumbent upon you as a visitor or a resident to understand the kashrus system. There is no shortage of eateries displaying “mehadrin” and/or “under the badatz” signs that do not even have a hashgacha. Signs, napkins with kosher claims, placemats, hats or event kosher bumper stickers are all meaningless in the absence of a valid teudat kashrut, a kosher certificate from the hashgacha you are relying on.

Websites offering coupons and deals are often misleading, not intentionally perhaps, but the kashrus information pertaining to a restaurant is often outdated. Kashrus supervision changes quite often in Israel and these websites often carry disclaimers distancing themselves from responsibility regarding kashrus. Therefore, relying on them for your dining out decision would compel you to confirm the kosher status of the restaurant when you arrive. This can simply be done by asking to see a valid kashrus certificate from the hashgacha claiming to supervise the restaurant. In the absence of such a certificate, there simply is no kosher supervision despite any website claims.

A store owner or worker may speak flawless Hebrew but this does not attest to one’s religiosity or familiarity with the laws of kashrus, especially those laws as they apply to a commercial setting, which in many instances differ significantly from the rules in our home setting.

At the risk of being repetitive, don’t pack the myth when you come but please, leave it behind. Everything in Israel is NOT kosher. Everything in Jerusalem is Not mehadrin or even kosher. In the area of the Triangle (Ben-Yehuda, King George, Jaffe Streets) to Machane Yehuda (The Shuk) I can think of at least three stores that sell pork products. The writing in these stores is Hebrew as well and one might easily make a mistake chas v’sholom.

Sadly, a growing number of stores in the center of Jerusalem are operating on shabbos, and they too do not have kosher supervision. Yes, there is non-kosher in Jerusalem as well as many stores claiming to be “mehadrin” and “badatz” when in fact, they do not have a hashgacha from any agency!

The pride felt seeing the El Al plane, the playing of Shalom Aleichem on the plane’s PA system while landing and the vision of the national flag with the Magen David are all fine but they in no way elevate the level of kosher observance in the modern state of Israel, not even in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. Hebrew speakers may be as distant from halacha as a foreign worker in NYC, and while this pains us and it is sad, you must retrain your brain to understand that when the plane touches down in Ben-Gurion International Airport it should not signal the beginning of the eating festival. Israel is a Jewish country but not a religious country. There are hundreds of thousands of non-Jews living here. Many stores are treif while others lack a hashgacha. This is true in most cities around the country, even Jerusalem.

“Everyone eats there” is not a replacement for a kosher certificate. There are issues of trumos & ma’asros (tithing) and orla that are applicable here as well as separating challah. There is an issue of chilul shabbos milk, something one does not think of abroad since there; dairy farms are not owned by Jews.

How sad it is that so many visit the holiest place in the world, people who maintain a stringent level of kosher in their home community only to fall prey to the myths and hype that surrounds the kosher scene in Israel today.

As if the case elsewhere, one must verify the kashrus of a store before eating no less so than any restaurant in any city around the world.

More to follow…


  • Gary
    July 3, 2012 - 21:56 | Permalink

    Pork Products? Please tell us where these stores are so we don’t C”V shop there without knowing!

  • Walter Bingham
    July 3, 2012 - 22:06 | Permalink

    Gary, you can’t make a mistake. The pork is hanging on the wall on hooks.

    Apart from that, if there is no genuine Kosher certification prominently displayed, don’t go in.

  • yechiel-admin
    July 3, 2012 - 22:19 | Permalink

    One such store is “Mania” located at 101 Agripas Street opposite the shuk. There is another in the alley near Chafetz Chaim take home, about number 5 Agripas Street and yet another, the Kibbutz Mizra store on Shammai Street. Kibbutz Mizra makes a living raising pigs for pork products

  • Judah
    July 3, 2012 - 22:20 | Permalink

    A couple years ago I was with a friend in the alley near Rechov Rivlin. There was a sushi store there without a hechsher. My friend says its probably kosher. I said I wouldnt go near a place without a teuda. Either way, he decided to go inside and ask the workers if the store is kosher. To his surprise, the waitress said the store isn’t kosher. He pressed her, and told her that it proabably really is kosher. She told him – “there’s no way its Kosher, we serve pork here”.

    And thats when I realized that pork being sold is a reality in Jerusalem.

  • Shimon
    July 4, 2012 - 14:25 | Permalink

    Last week I was with my wife on Rivlin looking for a place to eat, and saw a nice looking place… till I noticed פירות ים (“fruits of the sea”) on the awning. This is a euphemism for assorted treif seafood, e.g. shrimp.

    We ate at one of the other places :) (With a mehadrin hechsher in my “comfort zone”)

  • Shimon
    July 4, 2012 - 14:29 | Permalink

    Apropos the place on Shamai that R’ Yechiel mentioned….
    Many years ago I was forced to do business with someone who worked in that store, and looked up and down the street 3 times before walking in the door, to make sure no one was watching me in my big kipa going in! It was awful! The whole store is wall-to-wall tarfus…

  • Yair Spolter
    July 5, 2012 - 11:03 | Permalink

    Thanks again for a really clutch post!
    This is one of the saddest phenomena – people (inadvertently) lowering their kashrus standards when they come to Israel.
    Hopefully your article(s) will save many from this mistake.

    (where are the Share buttons?)

  • Yitzy
    July 5, 2012 - 12:01 | Permalink

    The unfortunate fact is that kashrut , just like frumkeit, has been completely politicized in Israel. Where those who are charedi wont ‘touch’ a rabbanut hashgocho and will go to the ends of the earth to convince you just how treif it is -with a straight sincere face. In just about all cases they don’t know what they’re talking about, and base this silliness on all Kinds of hearsay and lahon hara….etc.etc.
    Isn’t it interesting that these same people who blast the rabbanut never seem to find any issues with charedi kashrut orgs….Like they don’t seem to have any issue with a badatz that funds all sorts of hooliganism.

    I no longer accept, based on the knowledge that I have, and after consulting with people who know (and not those who think they know) this blanket contempt for all rabbanut hashgochos.

  • Sara
    July 5, 2012 - 15:21 | Permalink

    It interests me why people are so horrified by the word and sight of pork when in fact it is no worse than many other non-kosher items, particularly worms and bugs.
    If every ingredient is certified and yet unchecked grains with tiny bugs are used such a dish probably contains more Torah prohibitions than roast pork or seafood.
    As a common example I’ve noticed – those who suffice to eat vegetarian dishes in establishments with inadequate (or non existent) kashrus run multiple risks in addition to the bugs and as Yechiel said the special nature of the Holy Land adds an additional concern of Terumah, Maaser and Orlah.
    Yitzy, while I certainly agree that the politics of Kashrus here are huge please let’s refrain from focusing on the unpleasant nature of people which can only fuel hatred and animosity – and stay focuses on your bottom line – looking into the actual kashrus standards.
    The issues are so multi-layered and faceted that the only way to go is to be vigilant, educated and with an eye on keeping the mitzvah of kashrus to the best of our abilities.

  • Judah
    July 6, 2012 - 14:53 | Permalink


    You obviously have a bone to pick with somebody. You somehow saw in this post a diatribe against the Rabbanut. Nowhere in this article does it say anything against the Rabbanut, actually the author uses the Rabbanut as a good authority to declare something unkosher.

    So please calm down, stop spewing nonsense that is false in so many ways. Many chardeim won’t touch a regular rabbanut for good reasons. Bishul yisrael, no supervision, and acceptance of products from any Israeli recognized kashrus agency. Including those that use chalav stam, gelatin and many other issues.

    Apparently the people you spoke to are obviously not in the kashrus industry, as even the rabbanut themselves don’t deem their hechsher as a top notch hechsher.

  • Yitzy
    July 8, 2012 - 20:47 | Permalink

    Judah its exactly folks like you who put forth such nonsense and blanket pronouncements that must be stopped.

    Broad brush disdain for the rabbanut is rooted in sinas chinam (read your history). The amount of lies that are allowed to perpetuate out there which i have heard, is appalling.

    I do not accept your oft repeated premise Judah that ALL rabbanut is defacto treif. The fact that you feel the need to condemn me personally for my protestations speaks rather loudly about where your ‘side’ stems from as well as the profound weakness of your argument. Which as usual is based on nothing more than hearsay and yea – POLITICS.

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