Intensive Passover preparations? Depends on who you ask. In Jerusalem they are feverishly cleaning, scalding dishes and passing judgment on all the crumbs. In Tel Aviv, on the other hand, they are willing to pay the fines of the Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) inspectors. “This is another country,” explain the restaurant owners.
The eternal battle between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem regarding the religious character of Israel has not skipped Passover this year. While the restaurants in Jerusalem are involved in tense preparations for the holiday and its accompanying inspections, fearful of every stray crumb of hametz (leavened food), the mood in Tel Aviv is of “business as usual.”
The Tel Aviv restaurant managers say that some of the suppliers want to furnish them with larger quantities than usual of "outlawed" leavened products before the advent of the holiday, while with others there are occasionally delays, but they feel almost no limitations of the festival in the city, and certainly not the long arm of law enforcement. The reason for the “heresy,” they claim: purely culinary motives.
“I have never been in a restaurant in this city that allowed something like Passover to interfere with that they do,” said Don Zuaretz to me on Wednesday [April 4, 2012], chef of the Jappo restaurant located in the Old Jaffa area.
This small restaurant branded the food it offers as "food from the Jewish kitchen," but when it comes to Passover, there is a large gap between Jewish food and Jewish tradition. The clients respond accordingly, according to the chef. “Most of the clients that we serve are not bothered by kashrut,” says Zuaretz.
He explains that in most of the restaurants where he has worked, the tables on Passover were fuller than on regular weeks, and none were scrupulous about a kitchen scrubbed cleaned of hametz. “Tel Aviv is another country; people stream to restaurants in the city more than usual because here they can eat hametz,” says Yair Shor, manager of the restaurant. “Then there are also many clients who are influenced psychologically by the holiday. I have already seen diners eating seafood (which is unkosher) but they wipe up the sauce with matza, because it’s Passover.”
Chef Zuaretz argues that clients’ demands are not the only reason for the non-kosher menu on the festival of freedom. “I cannot serve matzot here even if the clients ask for it,” he decrees. “Matza cannot replace bread and my kreplach (small dough pockets) filled with oxtail and sprinkled with parmesan cheese on top (an un-kosher combination). I simply can’t make those from matza flour. I really don’t want to be perceived as a heretic, but I cannot serve a portion that I’m not satisfied with, even if it’s Passover.”
They don’t miss a crumb
In Jerusalem, of course, the picture is completely different. The Jerusalemite restaurateurs work feverishly before the holiday and insist that it is possible to create something that is tasty and also kosher.
In the Angelica restaurant in the center of town, they already started scalding the vessels on Tuesday. “We make all the preparations at the beginning of the week,” says Marcus Gersovitz, chef and owner of this relatively new restaurant in the Jerusalem landscape, and one that caters mainly to a religious clientele.
On Wednesday the workers of the restaurant were busy with meticulous cleaning projects to make the place kosher for its opening on Chol Hamoed (the weekdays of Passover). Scores of plates and forks were boiled in order to serve the religious clients in the course of the holiday.
Workers were completing the final Passover preparations in the Grand Café, also belonging to Gersovitz. In my visit on Wednesday to the coffee house there was no trace of a crumb of hametz to threaten the koshering process of the coffeehouse.
Yuval Goren participated in the preparation of this article.