Many people expect that kosher food in Israel means food in Israel. In reality this is far from the truth, especially in Tel Aviv and Eilat, but also in many other parts of the country. For those who are not looking for specifically kosher food, this makes things simpler – restaurants remain open on Shabbat, and the menus are bigger with non-Kosher products, and mixtures of milk and meat products. Nonetheless, for those who are not familiar with kosher food, it is an interesting and unique topic in itself and something which is interesting to come to understand during a visit to Israel.
What makes a place kosher?
To prove that a restaurant, food stand or product is kosher, owners have to display a certificate (called a hechsher) from the local rabbinate, proving that their kitchen has been supervised and thoroughly checked. You can see these framed on the wall of any place serving Kosher food. There are different standards of Kashrut, and those who keep stricter standards should look for hechsher certificates endorsed by their rabbis, such as the ultra-orthodox ‘Badatz’ and the Sephardi ‘Beit Yosef’. To those more lax about kashrut, there are some places that decide on their own to keep kosher, but don’t want to pay the rabbis. These places will have something written on the wall along the lines of ‘Voluntarily Kosher’, or ‘Supervised by God’. When in doubt, it’s fine to ask a waiter or owner, but if they can’t point to a certificate on the wall, then you have to take their word for their own standards. Our food tour of Tel Aviv will give those curious to hear more about Kashrut and Kosher food, an insight into the rules and customs of keeping kosher.
Kosher supermarkets in Israel
All the big national food chains (except for one, ‘Tiv Taam’) stock only kosher food, and every food product is marked as kosher in some way, either in bold writing near the ingredients or by a symbol somewhere on the packaging. If you don’t read Hebrew, you can ask someone to assist you. Smaller shops can choose to do what they want: most sell kosher products, some (especially in Tel Aviv and Arab towns), sell a mixture of kosher and non-kosher items.
Kosher food in Tel Aviv and Eilat
Tel Aviv is a world unto itself. Restaurants serve pork, shrimps, and combinations of dairy and meat products. Shops, will happily sell non-kosher meat and wine. Eilat also has a fair number of non-kosher restaurants, although most of the hotels have kosher kitchens. In both these cities, those keeping kosher shouldn’t assume that a place is kosher just because it is in Israel! Kosher restaurants will have the fact marked on the front of the shop, on the wall, and often on the menu too. Again, it’s worth asking if it’s important for you.
Kosher and vegan food
By its very nature, vegan food has integrated quickly and easily into Israeli society, thanks in large part to the fact that so many Israeli staples are vegan friendly (hummus, falafel, and so on), and also to the fact that vegan food its by its very nature, Kosher. Our vegan food tour of Tel Aviv will provide those interested, with a great introduction to how vegan food and kosher food are so closely aligned, with tasty treats along the way.