They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety—Benjamin Franklin
A few days from now, on March 26, 2013, the Jewish Passover, nicknamed the Feast of Freedom in Hebrew, will be celebrated in Israel. During the week in which it is celebrated, the strictest “kashrut” dietary laws are enforced on Israel’s population. In the name of Freedom, the State denies it, in the best of the 1984 tradition.
The main difference with other periods of the year is the prohibition on eating leavened bread+ and its derivatives; most Israelis run amok trying to get good and fresh pita bread from Palestinian bakeries. Supermarkets, as all other food stores, depend on an operation permit issued by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, which imposes strict kashrut laws. During Passover, supermarkets sell special products, even popular waffles++ must be produced from flour which does not contain “hametz,” leavened flour. In 2013, this led to an unexpected war between the Rabbinate and one of the most powerful supermarket chains.
The naming of a product is considered a critical issue for its success. Naming a chocolate sauce “Swampy Smell” will probably lead to its failure. In 1958, an Israeli supermarket chain was founded and given only a slightly better name. Hebrew and Aramaic are similar tongues. More often than not, their words share the same Semitic root but are conjugated in a slightly different form. Educated Hebrew speakers often spice up their language with Aramaic words. The supermarket chain owners baptized their creation “Shupra-Sal,” a name which combines Aramaic and Hebrew and that can be translated as “Superb-Basket.” Due to a lame choice of spelling, the good idea became impossible to comprehend. Instead, it is known in a variety of pronunciations, like “Shufer-Sal” and “Super-Sal.” The latter is the most popular. The branding error didn’t stop the owners; with almost 250 branches, they are among the largest supermarket chains in the country, with a yearly revenue of roughly $3 billion. They have enough resources to fight the Chief Rabbinate.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.”—George Orwell, 1984
Chief Rabbinate of Israel Passover Letter
Israeli supermarkets resemble their American and European cousins, with adaptations to the Middles Eastern climate and diet. Even in the smallest branches, several hundred flour products are available. Making a branch “kasher lepesach,” ready for Passover, is a logistic nightmare demanding the experience of an army’s logistics general. Errors happen. Food products sold in regular days must have a “kasher” sign, i.e. a mark stating that they fulfill the “kashrut” laws. Products approved for Passover must have a different sign, reading “kasher lepesach.” After lengthy considerations, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel concluded that this is not enough. They issued a letter, reproduced above, stating that the shape of the package must be changed in order to make errors even more difficult. For reasons of clarity, I simplified the requests. Before the letter the supermarkets needed an army general, after it, they need entire teams of field marshals to fulfill the rabbis requests. Would the rabbis pay for the expensive request? Do they expect waffle-eating people to pay for it, even if they don’t care which flour was used for their beloved “Swampy Smell Waffers?”
Super-Sal didn’t care. In a daring disregard of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, they placed in their branches the waffles appearing in the picture above, which resemble the regular packages and feature a yellow “kasher lepesach” sign. After all, how can one place strictly rectangular waffles in a “different package?” Circular packages are useless in this case. The severe transgression was noticed by Jewish-religious media and published among cries of murder. The cryptic answer of the chain was that they “are working with the Chief Rabbinate.” Rabbis, apparently too busy eating waffles, did not answer. The Waffles War is on.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.