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Vos Iz Neias

Vos Iz Neias

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The political and cultural landscape of Israel can be somewhat difficult to decipher.

The dining rooms of both the Senate and the House of Representatives have witnessed the making and breaking of many deals—some might even say that that's where the real deal-making goes on.

While similar wheeling and dealing can be found in parliaments throughout the world, Israeli political scientist Yoram Peri has noted that this is particularly true in the cafeteria of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, which has: the atmosphere of a social club.

Knesset members, journalists, senior officials and others from the political class mingle, move from table to table, and join in conversations that go on all day.Corpulence=CorruptionIn Israel's parliament there are a number of eating venues—some serving dairy food (chalavi) and some serving meat dishes (besari).

According to Halachah (Rabbinic law) eating food in which milk and meat are mixed is forbidden.

A kosher meal has to be either a "meat meal" or a "dairy meal." Thus is the great American favorite, the cheeseburger, forbidden under the kosher laws, the rules of Kashrut.

In Orthodox homes, where the Kashrut laws are rigorously followed, there are separate utensils for meat and milk cooking and separate dishes and silverware for meat and milk meals.

In kosher restaurants, and in many Jewish institutional settings, a kitchen will be either "milk" or "meat"—not both.Because of the delicate relationship between synagogue and state, all Israeli government institutions serve kosher food, including both government offices and the vast apparatus of the Israeli Army.

And this despite the fact that most Israelis are not themselves "strictly kosher." Without Kashrut supervision most restaurants and hotels in Israel would not survive—they wouldn't get enough regular business.

This system controls the work week of the restaurant and hotel employees: on the Sabbath and holidays no "forbidden work" can be performed in preparation of food.

(There are non-Kosher restaurants in Israel, but no non-Kosher food in the Knesset building unless someone sneaks it in!)The Knesset has three cafeterias: one serving only "milk" foods and two serving "meat" foods.

In late June, one of the two meat cafeterias was shut down when a diner reported finding a cockroach on a plate of rice.

The closure was not done by the Israel health authorities, but rather, by the kosher supervisor of the Jerusalem Rabbinate, Rabbi Binyamin Adler.

Israeli newspaper editors and bloggers had a field day composing headlines for this story.

Alliteration was all the rage: "Cooked Cockroach Closes Knesset Cafeteria" was my favorite, subtitled: Kosher conundrum caused when creature cooked and served to Knesset member.Among the 120 members of the Israeli Parliament are some well-known gourmands, more than a few of whom are grossly overweight, which is read by Israeli voters as a sign of corruption ("The lawmakers are getting fat while some of the citizenry goes hungry," said one irate voter).

While Israel's legislators are seldom involved in sexual scandal (a major exception being the previous president, Moshe Katsav, who is under indictment for rape), they're frequently embroiled in corruption scandals over money and influence—peddling and corpulence has thus become equated with corruption.

For that reason the Israeli media, and the public, had a field day with the cockroach incident.Five Reasons Why Cockroaches are UnkosherLong before the "cockroach attack," the Knesset cafeterias were in deep trouble.

In October of last year the cafeteria owners announced that one-third of the Knesset's members—40 MKs—were deeply in debt to the cafeteria owners, as they had allowed MKs to maintain charge accounts.

They owed a total of 400,000 shekels ($100,000), and it had gotten so bad for twenty MKs that they'd already been refused service due to their large outstanding balances.

Echoing the sentiments of many of their fellow citizens, the cafeteria owners, Yaron Menashe and Oshik Ben Shitrit, expressed their dismay about the ethical standards of their parliamentary representatives: "The payment ethic of private citizens who eat at the cafeteria is of a higher standard than some of the MKs." As luck (or fate) would have it, the cockroach in the rice appeared on the dinner plate of the secretary of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party.

Sitting with him at the cafeteria table were two Knesset members from Shas.

MK Yitzhak Vaknin told the press: I sat with this person who had a cockroach on his plate.

He pointed it out to us.

I saw the cockroach—it was no longer alive, it was cooked.

This is very bad.

There is a halachic issue here.

This is an issue of insects, vermin, and unclean creatures.

I called the kosher supervisors to come and see.Insects, vermin, etc.

are treyf (unkosher) according to biblical injunction as codified in Rabbinic Law.

When Rabbi Adler (the Kashrut Supervisor of the Jerusalem Rabbinate) told a journalist that a person eating a cockroach was violating five different laws, students of halacha around the world struggled to identify them.

It took just a day for an American Orthodox Jewish Web site, Vos Iz Neias, to offer "a grand prize to the first reader who is able to correctly identify all five issurim (prohibitions) associated with eating a cockroach in the Knesset cafeteria." A day after that the Web site had posted—in Hebrew, Aramaic and English translations—the biblical and Talmudic citations that forbid the consumption of bugs.

For the Orthodox community, the prohibition is not as arcane as it might seem.

In the past few decades Ultra-Orthodox communities have encouraged their members to check all fresh vegetables, especially lettuce and broccoli, for the presence of bugs.View as a single page12Next page��Tags: animals, cockroaches, haaretz, halachah, insects, israel, kashrut, knesset, kosher, orthodox jewsRelated StoriesBody Language: Michael Jackson and the Illogic of White SuperiorityBy Anthony B.

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http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/mediaculture/1683/cafeteria_cockroaches_and_synagogue-state_relations_in_israel
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