Hotels in Israel will now be able to place Christmas trees in the lobby, film movies on the premises during the Sabbath and violate other Jewish laws but hold a “kosher” status.
In the past, the Israel’s Chief Rabbinate required hotels to maintain basic compliance with Torah law in order be certified kosher.
However, a petition to Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein by the “Hiddush” Freedom of Religion for Israel non-governmental organization (NGO) has forced the Chief Rabbinate to change its rules.
Hiddush CEO Uri Regev, a reform rabbi, argued the Rabbinate’s regulations violated Israel’s kashruth law, which in the past the High Court of Justice has determined are restricted solely to the issue of food, and not Sabbath observance, modesty or other points.
Regev threatened to turn to the High Court if Weinstein did not put an end to “legal infractions” committed by the Chief Rabbinate in the field of kashruth – that is, conditioning kashruth certification on general Sabbath observance and not using Christian symbols.
In response, the Chief Rabbinate announced a list of changes last Thursday, removing its ban on nearly anything that would differentiate an observant Jewish establishment from one that is not.
Regev proclaimed the move a “victory.
“First, it will finally give the numerous Jewish and non-Jewish groups that visit Israel the freedom and respect which has been denied them by the Rabbinate’s extortionist demands,” he said, according to Religion News Service. “Second, it is an important lesson in the development of the rule of law in Israel, which emphasizes that the Chief Rabbinate is bound by Israeli law and is not above it.”
That last is an issue that observant Jews are well warned to take notice of, since it is now clear – if it has not been prior to this – that supervision and certification by the Chief Rabbinate – may not longer be reliable, due to circumstances beyond the control of well-meaning rabbonim at the Rabbinate.
The ban on symbols of Christian holidays such as Christmas trees has been lifted.
The Chief Rabbinate revoked its ban on using audio, video and music equipment at hotel events on the Sabbath except when food is served.
The ban on Jews accepting payments from guests has also been canceled, except in connection to ordering and paying for food.
Perhaps most disturbing, a requirement for hotels to have a Sabbath elevator has also been lifted, with the exception of a Sabbath elevator for the delivery of food.
Hana Levi Julian