The organizers of the “Taste the World” international food festival in Rehovot billed the event as kosher. When Chief Rabbinate of Israel inspectors visited the festival on Tuesday, 10 Elul, they were shocked to learn this event was a far cry from kosher as much of the food served lacked hashgacha, and there was meat and dairy together. Making things worse, some venders were advertising as kosher without having hashgacha.
The festival is under the auspices of Rehovot City Hall and offers visitors a taste of cuisine from around the world. The festival booths are manned by many food suppliers from around Israel.
Prior to the opening of the festival, rabbonim in Rehovot turned to Mr. Doron Milberg, a high-ranking city official overseeing the event, asking him not to open booths that do not have hashgacha. They tried explaining the issue was far more than the ingredients, since there was a question of meat and milk, dishes, serving and a multitude of related issues.
The Rehovot Rabbanut announced that none of the vendors will have a hashgacha since the conditions existing make doing so an impossibility.
In essence, what the inspectors found was not unique in Israel and all too often at street fairs and festivals vendors display photocopies of a teudat hechsher and for as long as visitors eat, there is no reason for them to seek hashgacha for such events. Sadly the same can be seen at festivals in Yerushalayim and elsewhere, particularly wine and cheese tasting events. The ignorance of lack of concern among consumers permits vendors to continue as they do and despite well-intended efforts by one local rabbinate or another, the situation will not change until kosher consumers decide to get tough.
In response, MK (Likud) Miki Zohar is pushing a bill that would forbid compelling a business to operate on Shabbos as a condition to entering a venue and that a business cannot be fined for closing Shabbos.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)