In the inner recesses of Jerusalem’s Mea She’arim neighborhood, a footpath leads to a capacious and open porch, showcasing two things in quantity: five dozen plastic jugs of milk neatly arranged, and a dozen siblings awestruck by the stranger at their fortress veranda. The home-brew peddled here actually puts the pusher at odds with the law of Israel. The contraband is unpasteurized, or “raw” milk, and über-haredi Yoel is the appointed milkman for this pious community.
His efforts are a matter of kashrut.
The going rate for two liters is NIS 14, a modest premium considering the commercial stuff is just a shekel or two friendlier. This porch, in this alley, is probably the only physical location in the whole of west Jerusalem where transactions of this sort can be had – provided, of course, the visitor survives interrogation by a circumspect Yoel. He and the porch crew introduce their proprietary hechsher, which they call “mehudar,” which translates approximately as “this is the most kosher” (this is a label in name only). Yoel’s domicile can be reached by anyone who can utilize a search engine and is willing to make a few calls.
The Weston A. Price Foundation, an international raw milk advocacy concern, is loosely represented in Israel by a woman whose name is, fittingly, Milka Feldman. She confirmed that the milk comes from cows on Kibbutz Nehalim, in Petah Tikva. “They are not given hormones, just vaccinations and shots, and even then, they are not milked for two weeks,” she says. And then there is the issue of the stomach operations. Feldman explains: “This milk is mehudar because all other cows are given surgery on their stomachs.”
What she’s referring to is a fairly common condition in dairy cows where a heifer sustains a twisted stomach several weeks after delivering a calf. Abdominal surgery is the usual remedy for the displaced stomach, and it is this operation that makes the milk unkosher, for the ultra-ultra-Orthodox.
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