The Jew And The Carrot

The Politics of Food in Jerusalem’s Old City

By Katherine Martinelli

  • Print
  • Share Share
Katherine Martinelli

Less than a week after the devastating bombing outside the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, the city came together to celebrate one thing that has the potential to truly unite us all: food. The Old City Food Festival, which spanned March 27-31, was conceived as a culinary tourism event that would encompass all four quarters of the Old City and celebrate its diversity. In Jerusalem, however, even food is highly politicized and the city’s Rabbinate spoke out against the inclusion of non-kosher foods and restaurants.

The event, sponsored by the Jerusalem municipality, marks the first food festival within the walls of the Old City. “Jerusalem is a breathtaking mosaic of cultures that came into being thanks to the singular, wonderful human variety that characterizes the city’s population,” Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat remarked in a statement. As such, the festival was meant to showcase the culinary traditions of all the inhabitants of the Old City with food markets, workshops, tours and live music set up throughout.

At the announcement of the food festival, residents of the Jewish Quarter and the Jerusalem Rabbinate were up in arms. According to Ynet, Jewish Quarter Rabbi Avigdor Nebenzahl sent a plea to Shlomi Atias, CEO of the Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter, asking him to stop the festival entirely. “We hereby protest the festival, which includes meals in non-kosher restaurants, and ask that this horrible thing be canceled immediately,” the letter said. “It’s a disgrace,” he continued, “that the municipality is holding a festival and directing people to restaurants in Jerusalem, which sell non-kosher food. A Jewish municipality must not be part of something which contradicts Judaism,” he argued.

Of the four quarters in Jerusalem’s Old City (Jewish, Christian, Armenian and Muslim) only the restaurants in the Jewish quarter are certified kosher. As such, if only kosher restaurants were allowed to participate, then the festival would be confined to the Jewish quarter and the purpose of the event would be defeated.

In addition to markets with food stalls set up in the Jewish, Armenian, and Christian quarters, the festival also included culinary tours of the Old City, cooking and wine tasting workshops, and music performances. The food stalls in the Jewish quarter were exclusively kosher and all vendors prominently displayed their certification.

In addition, participating restaurants in all the quarters offered special menus to festival-goers and were marked with large signs in English and Hebrew classifying them as “Kosher” and “Not Kosher.” Although many of the restaurants are not certified kosher, based on the menus they have posted none of them serve blatantly treyf items like pork and shellfish, although diners could follow their meat goulash with a foamy cappuccino.

In the end, the assurances of kashrut signage and that non-kosher food would be kept out of the Jewish Quarter was enough to quell the protests; in fact, the Jewish Quarter was the most festive and bustling of all. The food festival went on as planned, and the Old City came alive as hundreds of tourists and locals descended over the five days to celebrate the culinary heritage and diversity of Jerusalem. Politics was not the topic of conversation as people turned instead to the food, music and festivities. But while the message of unity got through to visitors who traveled throughout the Old City, people from each quarter did what they usually do and stuck with their own.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Old City Food Festival, Jewish Quarters, Jerusalem, Central Bus Station, Bomb, Armenian, Arab

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.