O P I Kashrut in Israel
|What is OPI?|
|The Phone System|
|The Bus System|
|Kashrut in Israel|
|M||Searching for Your Friends - OPI's for Men|
|F||Searching for Your Friends - OPI's for Women|
|Torah on the Net|
|Universities: Israel and Abroad|
You will discover rather quickly that kashrut in Israel is very different and more complicated than in America. Don't be intimidated, be informed.
Let's start with restaurants. A restaurant with no Kosher certificate (teudah) on display is usually bad news if you care about kashrut. This certificate is usually displayed proudly on the door or behind the counter. If you don't see it, ask the worker "Efshar Lirot Teudat Kashrut?" (may I see your your kosher certificate?). Don't fall for the "it's being photocopied" routine.
There are two types of certificates. Most restaurants have a certificate from the City Rabbinate (Teudat Rabbanut). It is good for three Hebrew months which are always written on the certificate. You should know that each city has different standards of kashrut (Jerusalem and Rehovot have good reputations). A variation of the Teudat Rabbanut is one which looks the same, except it has the word "Mehadrin" written on it. Mehadrin means "better" and it really is. To understand the difference between Rabbanut and Mehadrin, or to understand the different standards of various cities ask your local Rebbe (the details are two lengthy for this forum).
The other type of certificate is anything other than the Teudat Rabbanut. Usually these are also good, sometimes "better". These certificates are granted by Haredi or Hassidic kashrut organizations, like the Badatz.
Now, let's talk about products that you buy in the store. Instead of having an OU, OK, Star-K, Kaf-K, etc. on the wrapper, in Israel you will find hashgachot from other oragnizations, such as different types of Bedatz (Bet Din Zedek) the most common being the Eida Charedit, Chatam Sofer, Belz, Rav Landau of Bnei Brak, and Rav Kook from Rehovot which are all considered Mehadrin and have very good kashrut standards. The Rabbinates of many cities in Israel certify kashrut of products, and their reputations for reliability vary. As mentioned, Jerusalem and Rehovot have good reputations. For more on this topic, speak to your local Rebbe.
Limited space does not allow for the topic of kashrut, however I must mention a very important idea. You will find products that abroad were traif but in Israel have an Israeli sticker on the packaging with an Israeli hechsher. If this is the case, let the buyer beware! This might be hard to accept, but just because it has an Israeli kosher sticker does not make the product kosher. Unfortunately, some Israeli organizations get confused. To avoid pitfalls, I highly recommend that you do not buy any product that came from outside Israel unless it has a good hechsher on the original packaging (as opposed to the Israeli white sticker which is stuck on the original packaging).
You might think I have lost my mind, so let me give you an example to illustrate this idea. Let's say, for example (may not be true in real life), that Keebler Chocholate Chip cookies have an OU but Candy filled cookies do not. When I grew up, Keebler was not kosher, so alredy I am careful when approaching the product. I see that both the Chocholate Chip and the Candy filled cookies have Israeli stickers telling me that they are kosher! How can this be? It is possible that when importing the Keebler cookies, they saw the OU on the Chocholat Chip and ASSUMED that all Keebler cookies are kosher. Another example: Tic Tacs were not kosher when I grew up, and as far as I know, do not have any kosher sign on the box, yet last time I checked it has one of those Israeli stickers telling me it is kosher.
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