Have you stayed at a hotel in Israel during Shabbat? Shabbat lasts from Friday night to Saturday night, and hotels turn into a different place if they are Kosher. All the major hotels in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are Kosher.
Staying at the Renaissance Hotel by Marriott in Tel Aviv, staying at the Sheraton Hotel Tel Aviv or the Hilton means to forget about espresso coffee. The espresso machine will be turned off from Friday night until Saturday night, since pushing the button at the machine means violating Shabbat work rules. You may be served warm coffee in the morning, pre-heated already on Friday.
Expect cold lunch food prepared on Friday and service is cut down to a minimum.
Surprisingly such rules are in force also at International hotel groups like Starwood, Marriott or Accor.
Forget about public transportation, but taxis will be around. Picking up a rental car is only possible at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport. Tourists in Israel will see a transformation back to normal business on Saturday night after sunset.
Hotels are not required to disclose to non-Jewish guests they are “kosher,” so it will come as a surprise to many foreign visitors unaware of such rules.
WHAT IS SHABBAT?
The word Shabbat comes from the Hebrew Shevat, which means “cease,” “stop” – the Jewish Shabbat in fact implies the suspension of any work. Among the many precepts that Judaism requires, Shabbat is the most important celebration in the Jewish calendar, and it is honored every week. On this day, everyone has the right to rest: neither the master nor the servant, nor the man, nor the woman, nor the citizen, nor the stranger should work; even working animals on this day should be exempted from work and have the right to rest. Shabbat makes every man alike: no one can take advantage of someone else’s work.
Shabbat requires the observance of two kinds of precepts: the positive ones, which involve actions to be taken and the negative ones, that is the abstention by a series of works. One of the “aims” of Shabbat is to establish a limit to man’s dominion over nature. In particular, the observance of Shabbat involves abstaining from any “creative” act which could alter nature. And this is the reason why it is forbidden. For example, to use fire or drive a car, both acts would disturb the normal course of nature. However, Shabbat is not only about prohibitions: this day should be filled with some meaningful actions, such as reciting the Kiddush, lighting up the Shabbat lamp, wearing the best clothes you have, and so on.
The rituals of Shabbat can be found also during the meals, when traditional dishes are presented and consumed with the family. Shabbat represents a very important moment of family union, in which each member gets closer to the others, turning off the lights of everyday life, staying away from the daily stress, paying attention only to his/her own spirituality, and dedicating to his/her loved ones.
WHAT DOES KOSHER MEAN?
Kosher is the food that can be eaten, according to Jewish dietary laws. These rules cover the majority of the consumption of meat. According to Jewish tradition, at the time of Adam, men didn’t eat meat, they start only aftre the Great Flood and the covenant with Noah. The consumption of meat, however, was limited. It was forbidden to eat blood as well as some parts of the meat and fat around the sciatic nerve, i.e., the fillet. It was also forbidden to eat meat mixed with milk or milk derivatives (for example steak fried in butter or cheese, or in a ragù sauce). Even the slaughter follows a precise ritual – the one who is in charge of it must be recognized as a man of wisdom and must be able to slaughter by cutting the jugular with a sharp knife to ensure that the animal dies in a few seconds (less than five) and it does not have time to suffer. It should finally be able to check the lungs to discard the animals who have been affected by lung diseases.
A final limitation concerns the edible species of quadrupeds. In general, ruminants and those with a split toenail are Kosher, such as cows and lambs, while those who lack even one of these two features, for example pigs, horses, and hares, are not. Fowls and some species of birds (but not the prey) are Kosher amphibians, such as frogs and fish without fins and scales (and shellfish and lobster) are not Kosher.
Worms, such as those hidden in fruit or vegetables are not Kosher. That’s why our cooks and controllers are obliged to follow the most extreme washing techniques. Finally, the wine is Kosher when it is controlled by a Rabbi, from the squeezing up to the bottling, ensuring that the wine is composed only of grapes.