KOSHER WARS ; HOW A RIGHT-WING BILLIONAIRE IS CHALLENGING A SECULAR ISRAEL ++ Politics and Pork
Macintyre, Donald, The Independent (London, England)
With robust insouciance for the sensitivities of all three great monotheistic religions, Hermina Schlinger eyed with satisfaction her large purchase of pork frankfurters at the checkout counter of Rishon Letzion's Tiv Taam supermarket yesterday and declared: "There it is: the Last Supper."
What Mrs Schlinger, 60, was referring to was the weekend announcement by the Russian-born billionaire Arkady Gaidamak that not only has he bought the entire Tiv Taam supermarket company but that he proposes to make its famous food counters kosher from now on. No more highly convenient, if defiantly non-religious, opening on Shabbat, till 8pm on Fridays and 10pm on Saturdays. No more ham, salami, shellfish, pork sausages and all the other treif - or non- kosher food - that has brought Mrs Schlinger and tens of thousands of other Israelis to the 24-store chain over the past 15 years.
The shockwaves sent through Israel by Mr Gaidamak's purchase and plans are underlined by the urban myths it has already generated in the past 48 hours. Mrs Schlinger, whose origins are Romanian Jewish, is from Tel Aviv but she is doing a sculpture course in Rishon Letzion. She confesses to being "very angry" about the impending transformation of her favourite supermarket chain. She says darkly that she has heard a "rumour" that the tycoon enjoyed a plate of distinctly unkosher "fruits de mer" on the day he signed the deal. Like most of the million immigrants from the former Soviet bloc, Mr Gaidamak is not an Orthodox religious Jew but his aides are quick to say he has never eaten pork in his life. "This was a place where you get everything," Mrs Schlinger lamented. "It's like in Europe. You could choose kosher or non-kosher depending on your taste. There was no one pointing a gun at your head telling you what to eat."
Her friend Mary Dagon, also 60, locates the development in Israeli social history, saying proudly that in 1957 her father was the first to open a pork butchery in the town of Kyriat Gat, a town formed largely of traditionalist immigrant Jews from north Africa. "It was a very brave thing to do in those days," she says with justice. Convinced that there is no contradiction between eating pork and being a good Israeli, she says that such food is permitted in Kabbalist practice.
Victor Sergio, 75, a retired computer expert, asked a fellow shopper at the lavishly stocked delicatessen counter: "Where are you going to buy your ham now?" He added: "All this will have to go and all the [nonkosher] wines. A lot of the people who come to these stores are Russians who like to buy the food they know. And it's a Russian who's doing it to them."
Mr Gaidamak was not at Rishon Letzion yesterday to hear these complaints. But in any case he had flatly given his answer to Army Radio on Sunday. "I believe that in a Jewish state," he declared, "in which there is a large Muslim minority, selling pork is a provocation."
To understand the potential upheaval, you have to understand Tiv Taam's role as a bastion of secular consumerism. The disappointed carnivores will almost certainly be able to find "white meat" at a minority of small local butchers - certainly in Tel Aviv and even here and there in ever-increasingly religious West Jerusalem (where not surprisingly there is no Tiv Taam). But what was revolutionary about Tiv Taam, at least after its rapid growth as a supermarket chain after 1993, was that it was the first to serve the long latent mass market for non-kosher food. On Shabbat, when almost every big supermarket is closed, when the Israeli national airline El Al does not fly, when the country's main bus services are suspended, it remained open to shoppers at what proved to be one of its most popular periods. Its huge stores - with free parking in lots echoing to the sound of pop music through loudspeakers - are often supplied with instore restaurants …
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: KOSHER WARS ; HOW A RIGHT-WING BILLIONAIRE IS CHALLENGING A SECULAR ISRAEL ++ Politics and Pork. Contributors: Macintyre, Donald - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: June 12, 2007. Page number: Not available. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.