The "Cottage Cheese Spring"

This cottage cheese frenzy is enough to make anyone’s milk curdle.But the rabbi found it to be a breath of relief when cottage cheese was the main topic on Israeli radio this week.

Rabbi Berel Wein

OpEds Rabbi Berel Wein
Rabbi Berel Wein

While the rest of the world is absorbed in the Greek monetary failure, the Turkish-Syrian rift over Assad’s murderous policy against his own citizens, the failure of the Palestinians to talk about talking about peace negotiations, the International Monetary Fund scandal, Congressman Weiner’s behavior, the apparently aborted “Arab spring” and other sundry issues of great importance, we here in Israel are involved in a serious debate about the price of cottage cheese.

There is a public campaign on the viral internet to boycott cottage cheese. The café/bar down the street from my home here in Jerusalem proudly displays a sign on its door that it has discontinued the use and sale of cottage cheese on its premises.

The Minister of the Interior has announced that he is launching a governmental investigation into cottage cheese pricing and promises appropriate action to rectify any nefarious wrongdoings that he may discover in the cottage cheese industry.

There are interviews with all and sundry on the Israeli radio talk shows about cottage cheese. Health experts are being consulted as to whether removing cottage cheese from our daily diets would somehow be injurious in the long term to our physical health.

As a rabbi I have received a number of calls as to the kashrut status of apparently overpriced cottage cheese. This cottage cheese frenzy is enough to make anyone’s milk curdle. 

At first glance this looks like another Chelm reenactment, something which recurs often in our great little state. The whole world is topsy-turvy and we are dealing with cottage cheese.

However upon further reflection I now take a much more positive view of this contrempts. Unlike all of our neighbors our state is normal. And normal people have time and energy to devote to normal, everyday factors in life such as the inordinately high price of cottage cheese.

Faced continuously with existential threats and unbridled violence and hatred, the people living in Israel have striven to create a normal life and atmosphere for themselves in freedom and prosperity. In spite of the constant warnings over the past century that the sky is falling down here in the Land of Israel the average Israeli apparently does not believe that is really the situation.

The politicians rant and frighten, accuse and predict but the average Israeli has long ago learned to tune them and their dire forecasts out. We all know that we here in Israel face grave threats and difficult decisions. Yet our strength and greatness lies in continuing to live normal lives – worrying about cottage cheese, if you will. There exists within us an inner voice that bids us to pay attention to the small things in life and not to be overwhelmed by what appears to be greater issues.

The average citizen does not feel that there is much he or she can do about Iran and its nuclear program. His or her voice is rarely if ever heard in the halls of the decision makers on other vital matters. But he or she can influence the price of cottage cheese. Hence all of the recent public hullabaloo about the price of cottage cheese.

I am also convinced that it is a matter of deep and abiding faith in the Jewish people and its eternity that fuels the fact that millions of Jews remain living here in Israel no matter what.

All polls indicate that the vast majority of people living in Israel, on a personal level, are quite satisfied with their lives and circumstances. This is an extraordinary finding given all of the apparently insoluble problems and dangers that are faced here.

But this result is easily explained by the fact that we here have been able, in spite of being constantly aware of Iran, the UN, the Palestinians, Hamas, Hezbollah, etc., to concentrate our daily lives around cottage cheese. We are determined to live a normal life and as such the small issues in human life become very important to preserving our sense of well-being and intrinsic normalcy.

Though we subconsciously realize that there are precious few things in life that we have any sense of real control over we are anxious to deal with those matters that we seemingly do have some sense of control over them such as reversing the outrageous price of cottage cheese.

I therefore found it to be a breath of relief when cottage cheese was the main topic on Israeli radio this past week. It reaffirmed the resilient strength and normalcy of our people and our country. Now if only the price of a tub of cottage cheese would be lowered!