The government has already lowered customs duties on some imported food in order to increase competition. But the haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate refuses to accept imported food as kosher – even when it is certified by Orthodox or haredi rabbis overseas.
Ashkenazi haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel David Lau, left, and Sefardi haredi Chief Rabbi of Israel Yitzhak Yosef, right
Haredi-Controlled Chief Rabbinate Stands In The Way Of Lower Food Prices, Critics Say
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Israel’s Finance Ministry has taken steps to try to lower the cost of food by removing or reducing the cost of food imports.
But Ha’aretz reports that one major hurdle stands in the way – Israel’s haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate.
The government has already lowered customs duties on some imported food in order to increase competition. But the Chief Rabbinate refuses to accept imported food as kosher – even when it is certified by Orthodox or haredi rabbis overseas.
Instead, the Chief Rabbinate insists on re-certifying the food, often by sending Israeli rabbis overseas to inspect it.
The cost of this second kosher food certification is born by food importers, who have to pass the costs on to retailers, who have to pass it on to consumers. and that means imported kosher food is not cheap.
And while non-kosher food is sold across the country, all but one of the largest supermarket chains, Tiv Taam, only sell kosher food and carry kosher certification to prove it. So consumers can enter any of these large supermarkets and hundreds of smaller ones and know that every item they purchase is kosher and approved by their local rabbinate without taking the time to inspect each product for a kosher seal.
The Finance Ministry is trying to get the Chief Rabbinate to accept foreign kosher certification without doing a re-certification.
Many kosher dairy producers abroad reportedly prefer not to sell in Israel because of the behavior of the Chief Rabbinate inspectors and the related red tape, and the Chief Rabbinate’s kosher inspection requirements for imported hard cheese already certified as kosher overseas reportedly increases the cost of the cheese by about 35%, Israeli cheese importers say.
Last week, a government team dealing with the cost of food, headed by the Finance Ministry’s director general, Yael Andorn, recommended that imports of dairy products and fresh meat be made duty-free.
The Chief Rabbinate is still thinking about the proposal to eliminate its policy of re-certification and the Religious Services Ministry said that while it is committed to lowering the cost of kosher food, its review of Finance Ministry’s proposal is only in its initial stages.
Ending the Chief Rabbinate’s insistence on re-certification of imported kosher food could jeopardize the jobs of some of the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut supervision staff – many of whom hold allegedly patronage positions.