May 20, 2019

Tel Aviv Goes Kosher

“Tel Aviv has always been considered a “bubble” within Israel—voting differently, partying differently, snagging the Eurovision celebrations from the country’s capital due to its liberal, cosmopolitan nature. The food scene has always been a part of the appeal—particularly Tel Aviv’s non-kosher food scene; from the bacon-selling supermarket chain Tiv Taam, to myriad seafood and sushi restaurants, Tel Aviv is, without a doubt, Israel’s capital of non-kosher food.

Over the past couple of years, however, the city’s culinary landscape has seen an increase in kosher establishments, making a dent in its deliciously sinful image. What’s most surprising, perhaps, is the fact that behind Tel Aviv’s kosher movement are chefs previously associated with some of the most decadent, decidedly nonkosher establishments in town.

Kashrut, in Israel and beyond, is a complex concept, and an even more complicated institution when it comes to kashrut certificates, permits, and laws. In Israel, kashrut is largely supervised by the Chief Rabbinate, an official governing body that offers a course for anyone who wants to become a kashrut supervisor on its behalf. On supermarket shelves, products are equipped with its stamp, or with the stamp of Badatz, an ultra-Orthodox organization considered to be even more strict. In the food industry, if a business chooses to declare itself kosher and available to kashrut-observant customers, a paper from the Rabbinate needs to be present on the premises. A kosher establishment qualifies not only by avoiding the well-known forbidden items (pork, shellfish, dishes mixing dairy and meat), but also by using only kosher cooking techniques and products from kosher purveyors. Entering the kosher game is a costly, heavily bureaucratic process that many Tel Avivian businesses have opted to avoid over the years, listing ideological as well as logistical reasons for their choice. These days, however, the powers of the market are shifting, and new norms edge out old prejudice.”

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