McDonald's in Ben-Gurion to be kosher, open on Shabbat

Several months ago McDonald’s won a tender for the operation of a restaurant in the Ben-Gurion Departure lounge.

mcdonalds jerusalem 248.88 (photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
mcdonalds jerusalem 248.88
(photo credit: Melanie Lidman)
The McDonald’s branch in Ben-Gurion Airport has been given the seal of rabbinic approval to provide kosher food and be open on Shabbat while not violating any Shabbat laws or prohibitions.
The development represents one of the first times that the Chief Rabbinate, through its national supervision division, has given approval for its kashrut supervision in a restaurant that is open on Shabbat.
The step is significant because many kosher restaurants would like to be open on Shabbat, but due to the Chief Rabbinate’s policy of refusing to grant kosher certification for such establishments, they have been unable to do so.
The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah religious-Zionist organization has filed a petition to the High Court of Justice demanding that the Chief Rabbinate allow kosher restaurants to operate on Shabbat, and the group says that the development with McDonald’s in Ben-Gurion will be used to argue its case.
Several months ago, McDonald’s won a tender for the operation of a restaurant in the Ben-Gurion departure lounge, which needed to be kosher and operate on Shabbat since there is a legal requirement to allow passengers to be able to buy food at all times when they are in an airport.
In order to ensure the correct running of a kosher restaurant on Shabbat, McDonald’s approached the Zomet Institute – which provides technological solutions for overcoming complex problems in Jewish law – for advice.
Officials from Zomet visited the restaurant and noted concerns with automatic temperature sensors in refrigerators, as well as problems with heating devices, which if used on Shabbat could violate Shabbat laws, something that the Chief Rabbinate does not tolerate.
Some operational buttons on other devices required various switches and locks to ensure their use would not violate Shabbat.
The McDonald’s branch is now operational, and works on the basis of a kosher hotel, so that the food is cooked before Shabbat and reheated in an oven, and the staff operating the restaurant is not Jewish.
The Rabbinate for National Kashrut, a subdivision of the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut division, provides supervisory services over the course of Shabbat itself.
Tani Frank of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah welcomed the development and said that the organization was “happy to see” that the Chief Rabbinate recognized the ability to operate a kosher restaurant on Shabbat without violating Shabbat laws.
“Now all that remains is to enable this in all restaurants and establishments that want to operate without violating Shabbat,” said Frank.
A hearing on the organization’s High Court petition is scheduled for January.
The Chief Rabbinate said, however, that a similar arrangement had been in place in the past, and argued that the arrangements at Ben-Gurion Airport were unique owing, to the various legal requirements which restaurants who win tenders there are required to fulfill.