Many people have heard the definition of “kosher” at least once in their lives. Most associate it exclusively with Jewish cuisine.

In fact, the meaning of the word “kosher” is much broader. What does this concept mean in Israel and how does it relate to food and drink?

Kosher means natural

The word “kosher” comes from the concept of “kashrut” – laws and regulations concerning the life of Jews. These are summarized in the Torah, the main Jewish collection of religious texts. Of the more than 600 commandments, over 50 relate to food and define what a kosher food is.

Requirements are mainly applied to the cultivation of crops, slaughter of livestock and preliminary processing of raw materials, the composition of products. The content of any foreign impurities and unnatural additives is almost always excluded. In other words, kosher means that it corresponds to the accepted canons, natural. Therefore, you should not be afraid of kosher food at all.

The concept of “kosher” in the world has become synonymous with naturalness and health benefits. Thus, kosher cosmetics can never contain parabens and other artificial ingredients.

Animals, plants and even insects can be kosher.

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Meat and fish

So what exactly is kosher food for Jews? The Torah allows you to eat mammals that simultaneously correspond to two characteristics – ruminants and artiodactyls (goats, sheep, cows, deer, roe deer). This means that pork, horse meat, hare, camel meat are immediately banned.

As for birds, the book lists 24 non-kosher species. Basically, these are the winged ones that we would hardly eat every day: crows, owls, cuckoos. Jews traditionally cook chicken, duck, goose and turkey.

Kosher bird

The answer to the question of what kosher food means has another important condition. The meat must not contain blood. Therefore, the slaughter is carried out by a specially trained rabbi (shochet). Among other things, he must know how not to hurt the animal – this is one of the strictest precepts.

The fish should also have two differences: scales and fins. The Jews consider catfish, sturgeon, eel and seafood (crayfish, shrimp) to be unfit for consumption. Caviar is considered kosher if it is obtained from fish permitted for consumption.

The list of unlawful food among Jews includes tigers and other predatory animals, as well as reptiles, worms and insects, with the exception of some locust species. Interestingly, honey is also included in the list of kosher foods, although bees are not considered kosher.

Vegetables, fruits and other plants

Plant food should not be poisonous (potato tops, tomatoes, raw plums, peaches, apple seeds) and contain insects. Compliance with the latter requirement is achieved by a special inspection of vegetables.

Basically, all vegetables, fruit and grain crops are considered kosher by Jews. There are several prescriptions for processing and cultivating the soil, planting plants, but they are not of fundamental importance for tourists.

Dairy and flour products

Since cereals and flour made from them are recognized as kosher, the main requirement relates to the composition of finished food products. Jews consider it unacceptable to use animal fats, flavors and aromatic additives.

Kosher buns

An additional standard has been established for the baking of “Jewish bread” (pat-Israel), which involves the use of certain cereals and the mandatory participation of a Jew, for example, in lighting a fire. But this prescription often affects the household.

Dairy products are pretty simple too. DAnything that kosher animals give is considered permissible. This means that Jews have no categorical prohibitions on milk and eggs. The main thing is that there are no non-kosher additives in the composition – they can be, for example, some thickeners or flavors. Mixing of meat and dairy products is strictly prohibited.


Alcoholic drinks among Jews are on the list of the most stringent restrictions. All wines produced outside Israel are considered non-kosher. Only Jews should be involved in the process of making them. Special requirements apply to the cultivation and harvest of grapes. For example, you cannot take the fourth crop for production. In addition, many Israeli wines are pasteurized – in this case, even if the bottle is opened by a non-Jew, it will not lose its kosher.

Also on the list of prohibited beverages is alcohol that has been aged in wine barrels, such as cognac or whiskey, or contains non-kosher additives. Most of the varieties of beer, rum, vodka, tequila, gin do not cause any complaints.

Any coffee, tea and most juices, if they do not contain dairy or wine components, are kosher drinks.

Kosher products can be recognized by the sign

In order not to make a mistake in the choice and not to memorize the list of what is permissible, when buying, you need to look for kosher marks on products – “ehsher”. They can only be appropriated by Jewish organizations that control the quality of goods. There are at least 100 variations of such signs in the world.

Kosher signs

The word “kosher” is the most common word on food labels. In European and American versions – the letters “K”, “U” or a combination of “KS”.

As for catering, there are practically no non-kosher restaurants in Israel. Even hamburgers at McDonald’s are certified.

Kosher and Halal are different foods

There is an opinion that kosher and halal mean the same thing. In a broad sense, this is true. Both terms are related to food and are governed by the main religious law – the Jewish Torah and the Muslim Quran. But if you look deeper, there are differences. What is the difference between kosher and halal food?

In both Judaism and Islam, the slaughter of an animal is a whole ritual that is performed by a specific person. Prohibitions regarding food are similar, for example, regarding animal blood.

Also, in Muslim countries, pork is not eaten (you can cook the meat of any herbivore with a “cloven hoof”). Meat of land-dwelling carnivores, as well as birds of prey is prohibited, while fish and seafood can be present on the table without restrictions. Finally, Muslims do not consume alcoholic beverages.

Like kosher, halal cosmetics can only contain natural oils, minerals and extracts. It is strictly forbidden to use in the production of animal fats, additives harmful to health, alcohol, glycerin.

Orthodoxy does not rule out kosher foods

Many people wonder if Orthodox Christians can eat kosher food? If we turn to the canons of the Christian religion, there are no food prohibitions in Orthodoxy. Restrictions are set for special periods of humility and spiritual renewal. Rozhdestvensky, Veliky, Petrov, Assumption Lent, as well as all Wednesdays and Fridays – the time of complete abstinence from meat and dairy products. This means that nothing prohibits an Orthodox tourist from trying kosher foods in Israel.

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