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The Chief Rabbinate is expected to lose a Supreme Court battle to stop a butcher from importing Australian lamb meat that has been ritually slaughtered but has not been koshered with salt to remove the blood.
According to Jewish law it is prohibited to eat meat before it is salted or barbecued on an open fire to remove remnants of blood.
Also, according to Jewish law, meat must be salted within 72 hours of slaughter. Although more lenient opinions in Jewish law hold that the three-day limit applies only for non-frozen meat, more stringent opinions say the three-day limit applies for frozen meat as well.
The rabbinate, fearful wayward Jews will cook the meat without salting or barbecuing it, is trying to gradually reduce the amount of unsalted meat imported to Israel. The rabbinate is also interested in abiding by the most stringent opinions in Jewish law.
But the rabbinate is unlikely to be successful in its bid to enlist the Supreme Court to help prevent the sale of unsalted meats.
In a letter to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who is leading the campaign to halt the import of unsalted meat, Shimon Ulman, the rabbinate's legal adviser predicted that the Supreme Court would rule in favor of Baladi Meats, the Israeli butcher that petitioned the court against the rabbinate.
A copy of Ulman's letter was also sent to Avi Licht of the State Attorney's Office, who is representing the rabbinate in the case against Baladi.
Ulman argued that the rabbinate's stand was untenable since there are ample precedents for the importing of unsalted meat.
About 30 percent of all meat imported to Israel arrives unsalted, according to Rabbi Ezra Raful, head of the rabbinate's international shita (ritual slaughter) division.
Raful also said that most of this meat is later processed and salted to produce various meat products such as hot dogs and salami.
"Imports of unsalted meat have been falling gradually as more and more meat importers set up industrial size salting plants abroad," said Raful. "Now, Baladi is threatening to ruin this positive trend."
Baladi CEO Erez Dahabani said in response that the salting process added between 15% and 20% to the price of the meat.
"I want the right to market meat at a lower cost," said Dahabani. "Let the consumer decide whether he or she wants to salt or barbecue the meat."
Dahabani also estimated that the import and marketing of unsalted meat at lower prices would curtail the smuggling of non-kosher (treyf) meat into Israel from the Palestinian Authority.
"They might end up eating meat that was not salted, but at least they won't eat treyf," said Dahabani.
Dahabani also claimed that unsalted lamb meat was more aesthetically appealing.
"The salting process gives the meat a greenish appearance. This makes it less attractive."
The 1999 Meat and Its Products Law, permits only kosher meat imports into Israel. Meat derived from an animal that was slaughtered according to Jewish law, even if it has not been salted, falls under the category "kosher."
The Palestinian Authority is permitted to import non-kosher meat.
In 2004 a total of 58,000 tons of beef and lamb were imported to Israel, according to the Agriculture Ministry. The Palestinian Authority imported 5,500 tons.