Traif hot at Israel's Tiv Taam markets
By Nechemia Meyers
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While observant Jews in the Diaspora have to make special efforts to find kosher food, their counterparts in Israel have no such problem. All the major supermarket chains carry only kosher products.
This is all well and good for the observant, but it doesn't meet the needs of those Israelis who don't care about kashrut and occasionally yearn for a ham sandwich. Now, thanks to the rapidly expanding Tiv Taam chain, this is no longer a problem.
There was always a market for non-kosher products in the Jewish state and over the years many unobtrusive little shops were established to supply them.
But the mass aliyah from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s changed everything, for only a small minority of the million newcomers were accustomed to observing the dietary laws, and most had no desire to begin doing so. As a result, the demand for bacon, ham and the other forbidden foods skyrocketed.
Quick to grasp the significance of what had happened was the Tribtich family. The father, Yehuda, had operated a small, non-kosher butcher shop in Tel Aviv's Carmel Market from the 1950s, and then in the 1990s--with mass aliyah from Russia--his son Kobi began opening Tiv Taam supermarkets.
He now runs 13 of them, from Carmiel in the Galilee to the seacoast town of Ashdod, south of Tel Aviv.
The latest and most luxurious branch opened this month in Rishon Lezion, a Tel Aviv suburb. It outdoes any other Israeli supermarket, kosher or non-kosher.
Built at a cost of some $9 million and stretching over an area the size of a football field, the supermarket boasts not only an vast array of food products, but also six eating places, each featuring a different cuisine. These restaurants encourage shoppers to stay longer and shop more than they might otherwise do.
On the shelves at Tiv Taam in Rishon Lezion are 400 varieties of cheese, 400 types of sausage and no less than 700 different wines.
Seafood is also plentiful, including shrimp, squid, oysters and mussels, what some call traif.
There are, in addition, sections devoted to ethnic food, with a particularly large Asian corner. There customers can buy not only the raw materials for making Far-Eastern dishes, but also the woks and bamboo steamers in which they are prepared.
Tiv Taam managers are clearly expecting most of their customers to be immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
They sell 24 Russian-language newspapers and periodicals as well as distributing, free of charge, a glossy 48-page Russian-language magazine geared to the interests of yuppies from Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Moreover, in contrast to regular supermarkets, where most signs are in Hebrew and English, Tiv Taam doesn't bother with the language of
Shakespeare. Every notice is in Hebrew and Russian, with Russian on top and Hebrew on the bottom.
You don't have to be from Russia to buy at the supermarket; many customers are not. Some, surprisingly, even keep kashrut.
While I was looking around the new Tiv Taam shop I came across a man who was wearing a kipah and whose son had tzitzit hanging from his shirt. Intrigued by the sight, I asked the obviously observant shopper: "Aren't you bothered by the fact that this supermarket carries non-kosher products?"
"Yes," he replied, "it does bother me. But I only buy the kosher ones."
His answer wouldn't satisfy the rabbinate.
Nechemia Meyers is a writer in Rehovot, Israel.