Looking to break boundaries and gain business, dozens of restaurants will be showcasing their dishes at Eating Kosher, Israel's first-ever kosher gourmet food festival. The goal of the festival, according to Shaul Yahalom, one of its coordinators, is to provide an opportunity for those who keep kosher to survey the market while legitimizing kosher gourmet food for the rest of the country. "You walk on the street and don't see many restaurants with kosher certification," says Yahalom. "Half the country keeps kosher. We want to encourage more restaurants to get kosher certification not just because of religious reasons but because of health and taste as well." While there has been a large kosher-eating population in Israel for years, Yahalom said that there has not been a festival of this kind until now because of the effort it entails. "We're talking about a long process," he says. "It's possible that in five years it will be easier [to run the festival], but to put [the idea] in people's consciousnesses is hard." A desire to raise awareness is one of the reasons that Marina 56, a kosher restaurant in Herzliya, will participate in the festival. Having been in the kosher market for years, owner Aviv Wagner says that those who keep kosher deserve a wider range of quality options. "When we opened Marina 56, we were the first that identified the need for restaurants of our size to be kosher," said Wagner, whose eatery serves up to 300 people "The options for quality kosher food were very few. After us, a flood came. Tens of quality big places opened, but we're carrying the flag for this trend and we feel the need to represent it." Wagner's restaurant, which serves Mediterranean cuisine, is one of a variety of options at the festival, which will include myriad menus from across the country. Yahalom decided to hold the festival in Petach Tikva to coincide with the city's 130th anniversary. He expects it will draw out-of-towners as well as locals. "The people who go to restaurants go all over," says Yahalom. "People go to a lot of places for trips. There are restaurants all over Gush Dan." In addition to the food, Yahalom has arranged for live music at the festival, which he hopes will draw around 90,000 people over three days. "We want it to be about more than just eating," he says. "We want it to be cultural. You eat, but you also mingle and relax together. We want to raise the level of the event." Yahalom decided to focus the festival on gourmet restaurants in part because they had the means to showcase their food. "Expensive restaurants are the ones that can involve themselves," he says. "We went to the important restaurants." Wagner also expects customers to come due to the low cost of food at the festival, and is looking forward to giving customers an affordable taste of Marina 56's meals. "We want to go to our customers and let them experience our food for 25 shekels," he said. "We want to strengthen our image and reputation so that more and more people will enjoy us." Like Yahalom, Wagner also wants to enhance the reputation of kosher gourmet. "We had a bad image before," he says, "All of the other [kosher] restaurants were either kabob places or restaurants in hotels. As time passes more and more restaurants are coming in and the restaurants are releasing themselves from that image. People are also accepting the idea that kosher means healthier." Eating Kosher takes place in Petach Tikva Park on June 17 to 19 from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. each day. Entrance is free and dishes are priced at a low NIS 25 each. For more information (03) 632-0333.