Thursday, October 04, 2007

I Spy Undercover Kosher

It sounds like the opening of a crusty old joke...there were these five Lithuanian rabbis who crossed the border to check out some foreign fruit and veg. But it's a true story.
The Hebrew daily Ma’ariv reports the adventures of a group of Kosher inspectors from Israel who are keen to import fresh produce during this Shmita year, when Jewish fields lie fallow by Biblical commandment. This happens once every seven years and it transpires that some of the usual loopholes for farmers have been closed by ultra-Orthodox decree. Gaza, which normally makes up the shortfall of crops, is barred from exporting to Israel at the moment because of its rocket attacks.According to Ma’ariv, these black hats decided to bypass West Bank sources because they are harvested in Judea and Samaria and went shopping inside Jordan for the tons of produce needed by their communities in the coming months. But, even though Jordan has friendly relations with neighbouring Israel, the rabbis were leery of standing out in an Arab crowd.

At Eilat, before crossing into Aqba, the rabbis underwent a makeover. This was not the typical caution of concealing kippahs beneath baseball caps. No, these fellows ditched their heavy black coats, stuffed their sacred string fringes inside their pants and traded their yarmulkas for red-checked kaffiyehs, the dish towel-like head scarf worn by Palestinians and Bedouins.

Ma’ariv claims that these five Israeli inspectors tried to wander around Jordan, looking for onions and green peppers, but they were hauled in and grilled by the Jordanian police at every new town. The reason? Their disguises were too convincing. Sporting Arafat-style kaffiyehs and unruly beards, these ultra-orthodox Jews were mistaken for Islamist militants of Hamas and al-Qaeda.
Oy vey.

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