Istanbul International Airport now has kosher food: sandwiches, cakes and pastries sold in vending machines and even hot meals served at the business lounges.
More than a million people fly Turkish Airlines from Israel every year, and naturally, many kosher-keeping Jews pass through the Istanbul Airport.
The Jewish community in Turkey together with the OK Kashrut company and Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of the Ashkenazi community in Istanbul started providing kosher food to thousands of travelers in the airport.
“La Casa Catering Company was established by Turkey’s Jewish community and it creates more than 600,000 meals per year,” Chitrik told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. He added, “All the proceeds of the catering company go to needy families of Turkey’s Jewish community.
“There are a lot of people who have a few hours of layover at the airport, sometimes people are stuck there for many hours without any kosher food. Many times Jewish tourists that are stuck in the airport call me and ask if I can bring them kosher food,” Chitrik said.
“I started making a fuss on social media about the fact that I keep on getting asked to bring kosher food to the airport and asking the question: ‘Why can’t there be kosher food at Istanbul’s airport?’
“The airport management installed a vending machine in the terminal with sandwiches, drinks and cakes under the supervision of Chief Rabbi of Turkey Isaak Haleva,” Chitrik said.
A second option will be offered to travelers who have access to the business lounges.
“The lounge will have hot food wrapped in two layers [for Kashrut reasons], therefore can be heated in an oven,” Chitrik said.
He added that the idea is to cater toward religious Jewish travelers who had no other options till now.
“Many times people get stuck in the airport for a day or two because of snowstorms, and now they will have kosher options,” he noted.
Chitrik said that since Turkey and Israel are getting closer on a diplomatic level, these types of initiatives are easy to achieve and looked at positively.
“Nowadays, Jews can feel comfortable at the airport in Istanbul as visible Jews,” Chitrik added. “There are also three prayer rooms in the terminals. We expect the visit of President Herzog to Turkey in a few weeks’ time, and now, if he wishes, he’ll be able to buy a kosher sandwich at the airport.”