I have to admit that I prefer Ben and Jerry’s to Häagen-Dazs. Maybe it’s the fact that Ben went to my college or that their ice cream is simply more available in Israel. But that doesn’t mean I want Häagen-Dazs to go the way of Starbucks, Burger King and Dunkin Donuts, well-known American brands that didn’t make it in the Holy Land.
Nevertheless, that appears to be what’s happening. But not for economic reasons. No, it’s more of the haredization of Israel – now Häagen-Dazs isn’t kosher enough for Israel and the State Rabbinical Authority has issued a proclamation stipulating that any store selling the ice cream with the made-up Scandinavian sounding name will lose its kashrut license.
The reason: the milk that goes into the ice cream is made by non-Jews and not supervised by the official rabbinic authorities. Never mind the fact that religious leaders have for years used milk that is not chalav Israel (that is, made by Jews) under a ruling by none other than leading Jewish legal decisor Rabbi Moshe Feinstein that, due to strict Western regulation, there is no chance that pig products will make into bovine sourced milk.
But that’s not good enough for Israel, where the rabbis have decided that, since we now live in “Eretz HaKodesh,” as Rafi Yochai of the rabbinate’s kashrut division put it, “the majority of the milk produced is supervised [here], so there’s less reason to permit these products.”
Hence the decree that all liquid milk must now be Jewish-made or supervised. Ben and Jerry’s, by the way, uses milk powder (which apparently is still OK) and so, as a result, will still be available.
Not everyone agrees with the new rules. The Orthodox Union, which for years has been the gold standard of kashrut in the U.S., and increasingly in Israel, says it will stand by Häagen-Dazs. But who will sell it? My local SuperSol isn’t going to risk alienating the large number of kosher-adherent Israelis who shop there just for a little white almond raspberry truffle.
A fight for one’s right to consume Häagen-Dazs is unlikely to ignite the masses to return to Rothschild Boulevard, the site of this summer’s social justice protests. And, with increasing rumors of an imminent attack on Iran, it’s unlikely this latest round of religious rigidity will make much of a blip on the culinary radar.
Still, I shudder to think what’s next. No more Toyota cars and trucks in Israel because their carburetors aren’t sufficiently supervised? A blockade on iPhones because the workers in the assembly plants might be eating ham and cheese sandwiches while checking the screens for glitches? A ban on seaweed for sushi because it might contain traces of shellfish (oh, wait, that already happened…
For now, it’s just Häagen-Dazs, though. When asked what the brand’s aficionados should do now, Yochai from the rabbinate replied, “Love God more than ice-cream.”