New Bill Would Allow Kosher Restaurants to Open on Shabbat

A new law would require the Rabbinate to certify as kosher even those restaurants that are open on Shabbat.

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Moshe Cohen,

MK Eliezer Stern
MK Eliezer Stern

The Ministerial Law Committee on Monday authorized for legislation a proposal by Hatnu'a MK Elazar Stern that would require the Rabbinate to give kashrut certificates to businesses that remain open on Shabbat, if they fulfill the requirements of kashrut.

The law would require local Rabbinates from certifying restaurants and other food establishments as kosher as long as the laws of kashrut were followed. A certification could not be refused if an establishment remained open on Shabbat, as is the case now.

Stern said that according to current law, in fact, certificates were supposed to be issue only on the basis of kashrut, but in practice, rabbis set all sorts of other requirements – including Sabbath observance, the banning of certain forms of entertainment, preventing establishments from holding special events on the secular New Year, etc.

The bill does not require rabbis to work on Shabbat supervising establishments. According to the bill, establishments could serve food on a separate set of dishes, preparing food in separate kitchens. Thus, the “kosher” part of the restaurant would not operate on Saturdays. Stern said that many restaurants in the north already used these tactics, and his bill would simply expand to the rest of the country what the Rabbinate had already in principle anyway.

Kashrut is another area that requires legislation to ensure that all are treated fairly,” Stern said. “This proposal, which was worked out after consultation with important rabbis, will enable many more restaurants to become kosher, presenting an encompassing aspect of Judaism instead of the rejectionist one many people are used to,” he added.

But the bill is extremely contentious, particularly given that a total lack of supervision over Shabbat means there is no way of knowing whether establishments actually abide by regulations

What's more, many religious groups see the move as part of a general attempt to chip away at the Jewish character of Israel, pointing out that such legislation essentially encourages Shabbat violations.