The Jerusalem taste festival opened Sunday, with booths in and around the Old City selling a wide variety of foods. While the festival was greeted by some as a celebration of unity, others were upset by the prevalence of non-kosher food at the Holy City walls.
Some visitors to the event said the controversy reminded them of the Maccabee's battle to rid Jerusalem of the non kosher foods brought to the the Jewish people's Holy City in the Second Temple period by the Greeks and Hellenistic Jews. Others recalled the non-kosher feast of the Persian king Ahasueros described in the just-read Scroll of Esther, a fest the Jews attended, and for which, Jewish sages wrote, they were punished by G-d with Haman's decree.
Approximately 500 people protested the event. The demonstrators were led by Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl, rabbi of the Old City.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat defended the decision to allow non kosher food at the event. “Jerusalem is a varied city, with many sectors, I think that is what creates Jerusalem's unity... This festival will promote unity.” Jews, Christians, Muslims and Armenians are all taking part, he added. He did not explain why they could not have been satisfied with gourmet kosher dishes.
The food stands in the Jewish Quarter are kosher, while non-kosher stands arelocated around the walls of the Old City or in primarily Armenian and Muslim neighborhoods, he added.
Barkat took part in the event, helping two chefs to prepare a dish of fish and vegetables drizzled with tehina.