Airport Eatery Gets Kosher Stamp Despite Working on Shabbat

Inquiry with the Israel Airports Authority revealed that the McDonald’s at Ben-Gurion has a kashrut certificate, indicating that the Rabbinate shows some flexibility

The kosher McDonald’s at Ben-Gurion Airport.
Tomer Appelbaum

The Chief Rabbinate refuses to award kashrut certificates to restaurants that meet all kosher standards but are open on Shabbat, though this doesn’t necessarily apply at Ben-Gurion Airport.

An inquiry with the Israel Airports Authority revealed that the McDonald’s at Ben-Gurion has a kashrut certificate, indicating that the Rabbinate shows some flexibility, even though it rejected an appeal by a Jerusalem restaurant requesting to be both kosher and open on Shabbat.

Last week, the High Court of Justice heard a petition filed by the Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avoda movement for the Jerusalem restaurant Bab Al-Yemen and its owner, Yehonatan Vadai. Vadai has asked the Rabbinate for a kashrut certificate for his establishment, which is open on the Sabbath.

Before petitioning the court, Vadai appealed to the Rabbinate in February against its decision not to grant him a certificate. The Rabbinate responded to his appeal only in July, after Vadai petitioned the court.

At the time, the Rabbinate explained that kashrut certificates are granted to kosher hotels but that restaurants would be too tempted to prepare food from scratch on Shabbat in order to meet demand, and thus were not eligible.

During the hearing, Justice Menachem Mazuz recommended that Vadai withdraw his petition because the Rabbinate had responded to his appeal. Mazuz ordered the Rabbinate to cover 4,000 shekels ($1,155) in expenses due to its delayed response.

Regarding kashrut at the airport McDonald’s, the Rabbinate said this was an arrangement approved 16 years ago by previous chief rabbis, and that it exists only in the departure hall after passport control. Much like kosher hotels that serve food over Shabbat, the restaurant prepares its food before the Sabbath begins and keeps it heated, and the employees working over Shabbat are not Jewish, the Rabbinate said.

Tani Frank, chief of religion-and-state affairs at Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda, said: “The fact that the Rabbinate granted a kashrut certificate to a place open on Shabbat shows that when its wants, it can. If the Rabbinate can grant a kashrut certificate to McDonald’s and to hotels that operate on Shabbat, the only reason its objects to granting kashrut certificates to kosher restaurants that are open on Shabbat but don’t violate the Sabbath, such as Bab al-Yemen, is a petty battle for control.”