Certifying Cigarettes Kosher for Pesach
By Ilan Bloch
While shopping in a local Jerusalem supermarket during Hol Hamoed I asked a worker (who happened to be Arab) where I might find quinoa. This gentleman looked at me aghast and, with a tone filled with rebuke, informed me that quinoa was not kosher for Passover. Without wanting to get into the intricacies of the kosher l’Pesach status of the product I simply told him that I was Mizrahi (which I am not) and he sent a worker to help me locate this prized superfood. Once I found my way back to the checkout aisle I was bemused by the sign advertising the Badatz Beit Yosef hashgacha (kosher certification) on all Dubek cigarettes, together with the greeting of Pesach kasher ve’sameach, wishing consumers a kosher and happy Passover. I hope, of course, that it is very kosher and very happy, as it may be consumers’ last; the bottom of the advertisement includes the Ministry of Health warning that “smoking causes disease and premature death.”
A Badatz spokesperson issued the following statement: “Although smoking is certainly a mistake, it is better that this error not be compounded by also breaking the laws of Passover which are extremely stringent.” Maybe this statement should have been included on the cigarette packets themselves lest consumers come to think – Heaven forbid! – that smoking has been officially sanctioned by the Rabbinic establishment, which I am sure many have!
I also took the opportunity of taking some time off to start exercising again on Park Ha’Mesila, Jerusalem’s equivalent of New York’s High Line. As I pounded the track towards Malcha, my simple jog became a reminder of how everything in the Holy City is infused with religious and political meaning. Running through the Arab neighborhoods of Sharafat and Beit Safafa (including past one of the latter’s mosques), which were conquered and annexed by Israel in 1967*, my mp3 player randomly selected Yerushalayim shel Zahav, including its final, additional stanza celebrating renewed Israeli control over previously Jordanian-held pre-1967 Jerusalem, including these very neighborhoods I was running through, Shir La’Shalom, a once controversial anti-war anthem from just two years later, and then Vehi She’Amda, suitable for Passover, but filled with another, more political meaning. This song tells us that “For not only one enemy has risen to destroy us, rather in each and every generation they try to destroy us, and God saves us from their hands.” I was reminded of those (Jews) who include the (Arab) people amongst whom I was jogging in the religious message of this text from the Haggadah. On my way home, I walked past the Yad Be’Yad (Hand in Hand) Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel bilingual school, which offers a very different model for Jewish-Palestinian relations in the city.
I just wanted to go shopping and jogging on a day off. But nothing is that simple in Jerusalem; here one lives with the weight of three thousand years of history on one’s shoulders – for good and for bad.
*Part of Beit Safafa was within Israeli-held pre-1967 Jerusalem.