Eating out during your vacation in Israel can be a learning experience if you’re not accustomed to eating kosher food. A lot of Israeli restaurants and almost all hotels in Israel are governed by kosher dietary laws. These laws are based upon the dietary restrictions in the Bible and date back over 3,000 years. Here are some of the basic rules:
1. Meat and milk can’t be served or eaten together – If a restaurant in a hotel in Israel is kosher, then you won’t be able to order milk and meat at the same time. Dietary laws state that you have to wait at least one hour between eating meat and milk. Some customs hold 6 hours. Hotels in Israel usually serve a dairy breakfast, followed by a non-dairy lunch and dinner. You won’t able to request milk for your coffee if you’re eating a meat meal. You can also forget about eating a pizza topped with pepperoni or eating a cheeseburger.
2. Shellfish is forbidden – If you’re a lobster or clam fan, then you better get your share before you visit Israel. It is possible to find a restaurant that serves shellfish, especially in Tel Aviv, but you might have to search a little. This prohibition also comes from the Bible, which states that it’s forbidden to eat scavenger animals that live in the ocean.
3. Pork products not allowed – Pork products of any kind are forbidden to be served in a kosher establishment. This comes from the prohibition that a kosher animal must chew its cud and have split hooves. Since a pig only has split hoofs, it is forbidden to eat. Again, you can find non-kosher restaurants that serve pork products. It usually goes by the name of “white meat.” You’ll be hard pressed to find “white meat” being served in any one of the hotels in Israel.
So how do you know if an establishment is kosher? A kosher restaurant will display its kashrut certificate in a prominent place. If you don’t see one, ask one of the restaurant’s staff if they have a certificate. Even if a place keeps strictly kosher but remains open on Friday night or Saturday (Shabbat), it won’t receive a certificate.