A Traveler’s Guide to Jewish Eating Customs

Culture refers to a society’s way of life and it includes various elements, from complex architecture to simple everyday habits. Each country has distinct customs to take pride , which involves even the most basic eating habits.

There is so much to behold in Israel’s rich heritage and culture. If you’re planning to book your first Birthright Israel trip, it will be helpful to pay close attention to Jewish customs, especially the bar the country has set when it comes to their food.

Kashrut is a body of Jewish law that dictates dietary guidelines. Conversely, the term “kosher” refers to food that meets the standards of Kashrut. As promised, here are the common Jewish eating customs that you need to take note of when you make that Birthright Israel trip.

1. Food should be kosher certified.

Kosher certification is not fulfilled by praying over the food or having a rabbi pray over it. Remember that it is a careful process of researching the ingredients of one food item and certifying if those ingredients do not violate any guideline in the Kashrut.

2. Meat from poultry or mammals cannot be eaten with dairy. On the other hand, fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy.

This tradition is practiced because the Torah prohibits the Jews to “boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Ex. 23:19; Ex. 34:26; Deut. 14:21). This tradition is not only limited to food; it also includes cutlery, chinaware, flatware, pots and pans, and cleaning utensils used for meat and dairy. As such, there are two sets of utensils in a Jewish kitchen—one for meat and one for dairy.

3. Utensils that come in contact with both meat and dairy (while they are hot) cannot be used for kosher food.

Obviously, the most forbidden kitchen equipment are stove tops and sinks, because these come in contact with both meat and dairy in the presence of heat. In order to avoid transmitting the “non-kosher” status, Jews are asked to: 1) use spoon rests on kosher spoons; and 2) place used dishes on dish pans, instead of directly soaking them in the sink.

4. Non-Jew grape products cannot be eaten.

All wine products that you are allowed to drink in Israel are kosher wines. They underwent a special process of pasteurization called mevushal, which are usually done on grape beverages.

These are just a few of Jewish customs and traditions. If you want to include more, feel free to mention it in the comments below. Enjoy your Israel birthright trip!

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