Hametz or no - customers are hungry, and capital eateries accommodate them

Many restaurants maintain their regular menus, while others boast a Pessah kashrut certificate.

aroma 224.88 (photo credit: Sarah Levin)
aroma 224.88
(photo credit: Sarah Levin)
Efforts by the Shas Party to amend a law that allows the sale of hametz during Pessah, as long as it is not displayed publicly, in time for this year's holiday, have failed. The Jerusalem Post scouted kosher- and non-kosher for Pessah eateries in downtown Jerusalem on Tuesday and talked with the capital's residents, business owners, and visitors. While the recent Supreme Court ruling determines that restaurant owners can no longer be fined for selling bread during Pessah, customers continue to follow their consciences, and most people interviewed by the Post were reluctant to impose their views on others. Several streets crowded with restaurants lie in the city center, only a few of which close during the Pessah holiday. Other establishments boasting a kashrut certificate serve their dishes with matza or a bread substitute made from matza flour. The non-kosher places continue to serve their food with, or in, bread. "We have much more work during Pessah," said Avi Ben-David, owner of Iwo's Delicatessens on Rehov Shamai, who also operates four non-kosher burger joints, two of which are in Jerusalem - one on Rehov Hillel and another on Emek Refaim. "We're really here to work, not to fight. I have my own loyal clientele that seems happy with our products and continues to shop even during Pessah. I prefer to maintain my clientele and not to attract those who eat and dine solely kosher," Ben-David, a Jerusalemite who has been in the food business for more than 20 years, added. Yigal, the owner of an adjacent sabih (a traditional Iraqi food) bar, told the Post that he has "devoted clientele who eat here regularly, so once a year, for a week, we serve our sabih on [matza] out of respect to them. The food business isn't just about money, it's also about long-lasting relationship with our clients." Even the nearby McDonald's branch has turned kosher for Pessah, serving its clients burgers on rolls made of matza flour. "We keep kashrut on a certain level," said Boris, a father of two who was having ice cream with his children at McDonald's. "We don't eat hametz during Pessah, and we don't eat pork. It's important for us to maintain the Jewish tradition because tradition is the past. Without the past, we have no future," Boris added. For the capital's famed Ta'ami restaurant, which has served humous for 54 years, Pessah poses no dilemma. "Humous was meant to be eaten with pita. Though nowadays they make pita from matza flour, we close the restaurant during Pessah. We need some rest, too, don't we?" Ta'ami owner Jackie Magar said. Many of the restaurants on nearby Rehov Hillel maintain their regular menus. While one adds kosher for Pessah food, the restaurant next door serves regular pizza or burgers on wheat buns. "I don't care what other people do, I do what I believe in, and I have no problem with restaurants that serve bread during Pessah," said Shulamit Terez, who was sitting in Café Hillel, whose menu is kosher. "I myself don't think it's appropriate to sell or eat hametz publicly during Pessah because it offends other people." Terez's husband, Avraham, said that people should do what they wanted, but indoors. Three of a group of four friends sitting in Arcaffe's Rehov Hillel branch, said that they did not abstain from eating hametz on Pessah, while a fourth, Tamar Bogush, said she does. Like Terez, Bogush said she had no problems with businesses selling hametz during Pessah. However, she pointed out, "I don't eat hametz during Pessah, so I don't eat in places that serve [it]." Adir Lahav, co-owner of the non-kosher Chili Pizzeria said the demand for his food was higher during Pessah. "We've been working like this for the past eight years and our clientele is happy and satisfied... We've been told that we would be fined if we continued to sell hametz, but this year we arranged these dividers in order to make sure that no one is accidentally exposed to something he doesn't want to be exposed to," Lahav said. While insiders are very much aware of the dispute, foreigners who tour the city at this time of the year don't seem concerned. "We were hungry, so we sat here to eat," said Radek Hasa, a tourist from Czech Republic who was sitting with two friends in Hamishpacha Restaurant on Nahalat Shiva, which serves kosher food. "It doesn't bother me at all, bread or no bread, if anything I am upset because of the beer, but I know where to get it even during Pessah," Hasa added. "Not all people are the same, and those who want to eat bread should be able to do it during Pessah, too. This is the idea behind the freedom of choice and the freedom of religion," Leata Jelinek, from Canada, said. "I'm happy that hametz is not seen on the streets, because this is part of our commandment. But I won't prevent anyone from eating hametz on Pessah if it's very important to him," Rivka Kaye from the settlement of Elkana said.