“You’re under arrest. You have the right to a mashgiach.”
This strange take on the Miranda Rights could soon become a reality in Israel, where a Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs recently proposed giving the chief rabbinate’s kashrut inspectors the investigative and enforcement powers of the police, and requiring them to wear badges and uniforms.
Eli Ben-Dahan is also an ordained rabbi and a member of the Knesset in the right wing Habayit Hayehudi party. In a memorandum this week, he proposed drastically expanding the power of kashrut inspectors, allowing them to:
Require any person to give his name and address and show an identification card or other official identifying document; to require any person involved in a case to provide any information or document that ensured he was abiding by the law… to take samples of products and materials and send them for examination… to enter a business or production facility, including places of storage and refrigeration on the premises or under the control of the one being inspected, including entering stationary vehicles, as long as he did not enter a place of residence except by court order.
The move is ostensibly meant to battle “kashrut fraud,” targeting expired, uncertified restaurants and products that claim to be kosher, and also certifications from private and third-party kashrut organizations.
In Israel, only the Chief Rabbinate is legally allowed to give kashrut certification. At present, the kosher fraud inspectors can threaten restaurant owners with fines or the revocation of their certification. Many restaurateurs have said that the rabbinate’s methods and standards are unreasonable, and have continued to call themselves kosher out of protest.
But as a leader of the Religious Affairs Ministry, Ben-Dahan has blatantly stated that he will not allow the government to condone secular activities. One of his first acts was mandating prison time for Jewish couples who marry without the consent of the rabbinate.
“As you know, I support the state of Israel as a Jewish state, and we need to work toward greater enforcement of the state’s law,” he said, adding, “those who do not obey should be punished.”