MKs threaten to topple Chief Rabbinate kashrut monopoly
Crisis arises after rabbis in secular cities demand ban on produce cultivated during shmita year.
Legislators from Kadima and the National Religious Party threatened the Chief Rabbinate Council Thursday that unless a solution is found to the crisis over shmita produce in secular communities, they would initiate a bill to remove the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly over kashrut licenses.
The crisis emerged following what appears to be a decision by rabbis in secular cities to strictly enforce a ban on produce produced by Jews during the shmita year, a sabbatical year in which the land in Israel is supposed to lie fallow. The rabbis demand that shops and restaurants wishing to retain their kashrut license must offer only imported fruits and vegetables with the strictest kosher approval (Mehadrin).
Representatives from the Chief Rabbinate Council met Thursday with Kadima and NRP MKs to discuss the crisis. The MKs warned that unless the rabbinate provides a solution to the impasse, which reached a crisis point when kashrut licenses were withdrawn from shops, the Knesset would propose a bill to remove the council's monopoly on the issuing of kashrut licenses.
Nearly half of the 15 council members did not participate in the meeting, but the council promised to offer a response later Friday.
Prior to the meeting, Rabbi Moshe Rachberger, a rabbi in a Haifa neighborhood, rejected the complaints of farmers that strict adherence to halakhic (Jewish law) practices is being imposed in 12 cities. The farmers have taken their case to the High Court of Justice.
"There are only two or three cities where the rabbis are not willing to accept the sale permit [heter mechira], and two or three cities is not significant to the citizens of Israel. Are the residents of Herzliya or Ashdod complaining?" he said.
Herzliya's rabbi, Rabbi Yitzhak Yaakobowitz, told Haaretz Thursday that the decision to impose Mehadrin produce, which costs significantly more, has not harmed the residents.
He claims that the residents of Herzliya "are all happy about this."
When asked about the petition to the High Court, the rabbi said that "it is all about someone who wants to benefit from the petition."
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