Today I got proof that I’m really a good Jewish boy. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as shrimp couscous before I read Lisa Goldman’s brilliant article in the Forward, in which she tells us the story behind the policy of Israel’s Foreign Ministry not to reimburse staffers for non-kosher business meals.
Surely, the policy was a case of religious coercion, said one lawyer friend. I wondered if Ali Yahya, an Israeli Arab who had served as ambassador to Helsinki and Athens, had been required to take his non-Jewish colleagues to kosher restaurants.
Finding myself at the foreign ministry on an unrelated matter, I stopped by the press department for a chat with the spokesman, Yigal Palmor, to ask what he thought of this kosher dining policy.
â€œIt’s a totally irrational policy that creates an impossible situation,â€ Palmor said, without missing a beat. â€œThere’s not a single decent kosher restaurant in the entire Galilee region â€“ only kebab and hummus joints. Same goes for the Negev. So I’m supposed to take a delegation of Swedish diplomats on a tour of the north and stop for lunch at a hummus joint? It’s undignified and it creates a bad impression. And it’s hypocritical. Why would a secular Jew take a non-Jew to a kosher restaurant?â€
Goldman also interviewed the guy responsible for the policy, who admits he himself doesn’t care much about kashrut.
Yitzhak Eldan, the chef de protocol, decided upon the ministry’s kosher-only policy several years ago. â€œSome people resisted it,â€ he said. â€œThey made their opposition clear. But I never doubted this was the way a Jew should behave… I am not religious, but I believe that the policy of the ministry must reflect the sensitivities of all the people in the state of Israel, including the religious minority.â€
Or maybe it just showed what an uncultured brute I am.