Outrage had followed reports that cooked kosher fare wasn’t being allowed, but the rabbi who negotiated with the Qataris said he had “never asked for hot food.”
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Dismissing earlier reports, both Israeli officials and rabbis on the ground in Qatar say that kosher food, albeit cold, is available for observant Jews during the ongoing World Cup soccer games.
Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Istanbul, Turkey, Mendi Chitrik, who is the kashruth supervisor on the ground in Doha along with his rabbi son, told Israel National News Friday that the bakery they have set up is going full force.
“We distribute more than a hundred [strictly] kosher bagel sandwiches [a day] to fans and others visiting Qatar,” he said on Friday, adding that his son was about to give out “more than 300 challahs (traditional bread for the Sabbath meals)…to people who have requested” them.
Calling it “exciting” and an “important initiative,” he stressed that “it’s the first time there is a kosher kitchen in Qatar, a country with no indigenous Jewish community.”
He gave credit to the government, which has no diplomatic relations with Israel, for giving his group “VIP treatment,” and “the full encouragement and support of the state authorities in order to carry out this duty of providing kosher food.”
Chitrik is the chairman of the Alliance of Rabbis in Islamic States, established at the end of 2019 to support Jewish life in Muslim countries.
Back in June, Rabbi Marc Schneier, head of the U.S.-based Foundation for Ethnic Understanding, a global center for Muslim-Jewish relations, had told i24 News that he had come to an agreement with the Qatari authorities that there would be kosher food at the World Cup, with even “a Shabbat dinner, prior to the opening of the Games,” and a room set aside for a synagogue for those wishing to pray. “My friends in Qatar have been most welcoming…in inviting Israelis to the World Cup,” he said.
On Thursday, after The Jerusalem Post reported that unnamed Jewish organizations had complained that Qatar had reneged on promises to allow the cooking of kosher food, including meat, Schneier told the paper, “I never asked for hot food. The only person that spoke to the Qataris about this [on behalf of the Jewish community] was me.”
Chitrik dismissed the complaints by saying, “It’s not true. For the Qataris, it makes no difference if it’s cooked or baked, what’s the difference if it’s pastries or bagels or challahs or cooked spreads or cooked vegetables.”
He added with a smile that he “saw no Jewish entrepreneurs or Jewish organization” saying they’d “invest in hiring a restaurant and turning it kosher.
The main reason for that, he offered, was the same as what led his group to choose a “more modest menu” – they simply didn’t know how big or small the demand would be.
A senior Israeli official told The Post that Jerusalem has “no complaints” about how Qatar is treating Israelis and Jews at the tournament.
“All Israeli demands were met,” including “kosher food, direct flights from Israel for the first time and even a temporary diplomatic representation in the country,” the source said. “We know it has not been easy for Qatar and so we appreciate its efforts.”
The World Cup, the most-watched games in the world, began last Sunday and continues until December 18. It has been estimated that up to 10,000 religiously observant Jews are expected to attend.