Rabbinate, J’lem City Hall at odds over food festival

Religious leaders ask that upcoming event in the Old City include only kosher booths so public won't be misled into desecrating Jewish dietary laws.

old city lit up 29888 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
old city lit up 29888
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Chief Rabbinate is asking the Jerusalem Municipality that an upcoming food festival in the Old City include only kosher booths so the public will not be misled into desecrating Jewish dietary laws.
Between March 27 and 31, the “Jerusalem Old City flavors festival” festival (organized by the Ariel company), will introduce visitors to local eateries in the Jewish, Muslim and Christian quarters.
Culinary tours leading hungry diners to different restaurants and booths – kosher and otherwise – are also taking part in the event.
In response, head of the rabbinate’s kashrut division, Rabbi Ya’acov Sabag, sent Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat a letter last week protesting that an event including un-kosher eateries is taking part under the auspices of the city.
“The city of Jerusalem – beyond its historic sanctity – serves as a metropolis for tourists from all around the world,” Sabag wrote. “We respectfully ask that only kosher food stands would be included in this project, for the benefit of the public – and preventing the misguidance of the public.”
Two weeks before Sabag’s letter, Jewish Quarter Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl wrote to protest the matter before Shlomo Attias, director-general of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter.
Signatories included prominent national religious rabbis, such as head of the Har Hamor Yeshiva, Rabbi Tzvi Tao, and haredi rabbis – including some of senior Ashkenazi adjudicator Rabbi Shalom Yosef Elyashiv’s sons.
On Wednesday the municipality formally responded to the protests.
“The festival is based on local restaurants – whose character naturally derives from their physical location,” its statement read. “The festival and food fairs appeal to a variety of populations and tourists, and will accordingly enable a varied choice.”
The municipality noted that the kashrut of the food would be noted for visitors.
While Sabag said a representative of the city told him they would “minimize damages” by clearly marking the un-kosher food stands, he said he has not received an official answer from the mayor.
“Needless to say, the Chief Rabbinate does not usually try to impose kashrut supervision over businesses that do not seek it, but it is fitting that this event – sponsored by the Jerusalem municipality in this holy area – will take place in a manner respectful to Jewish law and retaining the city's status quo,” Sabag said.
The Talmud says the calamities of Purim befell the Jews since they took part “in the feast of that evil man” Ahasuerus, he continued. “And now they’re going to feed the people of Israel non-kosher meat.”