Having seemingly agreed upon a solution to his contentious conversion bill, Hatnua MK Elazar Stern had another controversial bill approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Monday, which will allow restaurants to receive a rabbinate kashrut license and stay open on Shabbat.
The current law governing kashrut licensing states that the rabbi issuing a rabbinate kashrut license may only take into account the laws of kashrut, but in practice he will not do so if the establishment is open on Shabbat.
This situation forces many restaurants and bars to choose between bringing in more customers by being kosher or by opening on Shabbat but driving away patrons who only eat at places with kosher certification.
According to Stern’s bill, the only requirement for a restaurant or other business to get kosher certification would be to serve kosher food.
The MK noted in the explanation to his bill that the Supreme Court has issued rulings to this effect and stated that the decisions of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate to condition kashrut certification on matters not related to food are not legitimate.
Stern’s bill, nevertheless, takes into account concerns regarding Jewish law and has proposed the use of separate cooking and serving utensils for Shabbat for restaurants that want to be open on Saturday and be kosher.
Kashrut supervisors would be unable to inspect such businesses on Shabbat and so the utensils used for the six days of the week for which its kashrut license is operative could not be used on Shabbat.
Bayit Yehudi nevertheless voted against the bill, saying it would force employees to work on Shabbat. The party may yet block the bill through its right under the terms of the coalition agreement for all parties of the government to veto legislation on religion and state.
A source within Bayit Yehudi said the party would discuss the bill and consult with the chief rabbis before deciding on its stance but indicated that the faction was currently inclined to oppose the proposed law.
Stern said his bill had the support of senior rabbis within the national-religious community and would make Judaism less alienating for the broader public.
Following the approval of the bill, haredi MK Yisrael Eichler of United Torah Judaism called it “part of the war to turn the state into a Reform ghetto.”
“Those who observe the laws of kashrut will not surrender and will not rely on rabbinate kashrut licenses and restaurants will close if they don’t have haredi licenses,” Eichler said.