Founded by the late Daniel Rogov, welcoming foodies to discuss the dining scenes in Israel and abroad, along with all things related to kosher food.
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Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Aug 15, 2008 3:23 pm

From time to time various members of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) decide that they are the defenders not only of public welfare but of public morality and even of our dining habits. Now, as happens from time to time, a bill has been introduced that will outlaw the raising, processing or sales of pork within the confines of the country.

It is clearly understood by all that pork products are strictly forbidden to observant Jews and Moslems. It seems not to be all that clearly understood that not all of the population of Israel are observant and that pork chops, bacon, spareribs, ham and other pork products are well beloved among many.

Personally, I find this proposed law ridiculous and offensive. As is fairly well known, I have great respect for those who choose to keep the dietary laws of either the Jewish or the Moslem faith but I find this proposed law ridiculous – an infringement upon the freedom of those who choose, for whatever reason, not to follow those laws, No-one forces, nor would anyone force any person to eat ham and no-one forces anyone to patronize either a restaurant or butcher shop that sells pork based products. What can I say other than that some like chicken soup, some adore couscous, some like pork chops and some like all of those.

This is not the first time such a law has been proposed. Following is an Op-Ed piece I wrote in HaAretz in 1993. It applies as much today as it did then.





Pig, Let Me Speak His Praise
Daniel Rogov

Pig is ill and, because it is in bad taste to speak ill of the dead or the dying, this may be an appropriate moment to reflect on some of the kinder things that have been said about him.

According to historian Carleton Coon, pigs were first domesticated in the area of Iran and Iraq about 9,000 years ago. Thus, oddly enough, the people to first learn the pleasures of dining on pork and who were later forbidden to eat it as Jews or Moslems were the inhabitants of the Middle-East. Until the advent of Mohammed, pork remained the most prized meat of the region and dining on spit-roasted suckling pig was a culinary activityequally adored by peasants and royalty. The joys of roast pigspread rapidly to Greece and Turkey and, by the time of Homer,some 2,900 years ago, roast pork was so popular that the great poet would probably have had a hard time describing the feasts of Odysseus had he ignored the pig.

Nowhere, however, was pig more appreciated than in China. In his diaries, Marco Polo described a piece de resistance that wasserved while he was visiting the palace of Kubla Khan. After a pig had been stuffed with dates, it was encased in a coating of wet clay and roasted until the juices were sealed in, the skin
soft and the clay dried out. The shell was then broken off andthe skin removed and pounded together with rice flour and water. The pig was coated with this mixture and then deep fried until itwas a crisp golden brown.

Finally, the meat was cut into slices which were placed on a bed of herbs and steamed for several hours. After tasting the dish, Polo wrote that "the pig was as soft as the best Genoabutter, exquisitely aromatic and the purest delight to eat". Eventhough this recipe is over 4,000 years old, it has never lost its popularity, and was one of the dishes prepared when Richard Nixon was feted in the Forbidden City.

North and South American Indians never domesticated pigs, but held the flesh of wild boars in high esteem. They considered pork especially appropriate to celebrate births, marriages and victories in battle. Because wild pigs were so readily available on the North American continent, the Europeans that later settled there made it one of their favorites. In 1725, William Byrd II wrote that "in Virginia, especially, pigs seem to find the climate and foods so congenial, that many southern larders appear ready to burst at the seams with pork and hams".

The pig also found a niche in literature. In his Dissertation Upon Roast Pig, which appeared in 1822, Charles Lamb held that "the entire realm of edible things, roast pig is the most delicate". Dr. Boswell pronounced that he "could linger long and lovingly over the succulence of pig"; and Samuel Pepys concluded that "there could be nothing better for the digestion and the spirit than pickled oysters, a young roasted pig and good, heavy ale". In the realm of fiction, the characters of Odysseus, Tom Jones, Gulliver and Gargantua would have been much diminished without ribs of pork as a major part of their diets.

Even modern writers have found pig much to their taste. Ernest Hemingway found fried pork chops with sauerkraut "a delight .. a marvelous feast for a damp autumn evening" James Joyce consideredthem "fit fare for kings"; and Lawrence Durrell thought them "particularly succulent and delicious, especially when taken with an appropriate quantity of light beer".

It is true that not all people delighted in the succulence of pig. Fiji Islanders kept them as house pets (pigs can be easily housebroken), but did not eat them, believing that souls in transit to heaven found temporary resting places in the bodies of pigs. Jews and Moslems consider pigs unclean; Carib Indians avoided eating pork believing that it would give them `pig eyes'; and for many centuries Trobriand Islanders did not eat pigs because they feared that dining on pork would rob them of the power of intelligent speech.

Whatever, several members of Israel's Knesset (parliament) have decided that pork is not appropriate for the holy land. No matter how many want to eat it, it is said to offend some and because of this a law has been proposed to outlaw the raising or sales of pork within the country. Pig, as we said, is sick. It is up to the members of our Knesset to decide whether or not he will become healthy once again.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Ian Sutton » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:24 pm

Rogov
Difficult to see why such a law is necessary. I could understand a law stopping employers forcing an an observant Jew or Muslim to handle pork products. This appears (to an outsider) to be more of a political act - perhaps a belief that it will gain mass support, whilst believing those offended won't have the volume of support to vote against the proponents next time the elections come round. Or trying to assert the religious/national identity in the face of immigration?

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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Daniel Rogov » Fri Aug 15, 2008 4:35 pm

Ian, Hi...

Purely political. One has to understrand that since the founding of the state of Israel, no government has been able to form a coalition without the participation of the religious parties. Those parties do, of course, have a fully legitimate right to exist and to make their needs and those of their members felt but they do sometimes feel that flexing their muscles in the name of their minority is an important function.

There is a good chance that there is more friction between religious and non-religious parties than between those Israelis who are and are not observant.

Keeping in mind that in a sense my opinions represent those of the non-observant or only somewhat observant populace, I would hope that if any of our observant members disagree with me they will feel free to present their thoughts as well.

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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Mike_F » Fri Aug 15, 2008 5:16 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Difficult to see why such a law is necessary


Elections are nearing, hence it is time for bread and circuses...
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Robert Reynolds » Sat Aug 16, 2008 12:03 am

Yet another good reason why politics and religion should be kept far, far apart. :roll:
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by MarkC » Sat Aug 16, 2008 4:18 am

This is not the first time in recent memory that our pork supply here in Israel has been threatened. A few years ago, the Russian oligarch Gaydamak proposed to buy Tiv Tam, which, I believe, also owns the pork processing plant used by kibbutz Mizra, and make it kosher. This would have effectively shut off the supply of pork in Israel, and at the time there was genuine concern that this indeed might happen. Fortunately, the deal fell through. Hopefully, the latest proposed legislation has no real chance of success.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Shel T » Sat Aug 16, 2008 4:25 pm

Religion and politics---usually 'strange', more often 'kinky' bedfellows. One or the other or both, always trying to impose their agenda on what they hope is an unsuspecting public, not that a "suspecting" public would stop them!
Lots of publicity and public outrage are the best weapons to combat these creepy-crawlies, who like all of their ilk, don't like and can't tolerate exposure to light shone into the murky netherworlds they inhabit.
Keep up the op-eds Daniel, they definitely help.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Shlomo R » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:16 pm

Since Daniel asked for religious members to respond, here goes:

Israel is unique among the countries of the world in that (so far as I know) it is the only country whose entire basis of statehood and foundation is religious. Yes, many many non-observant people fought and died for the current State, and I am not making light of that, but those same non-observant people got the idea of Israel as a state from the religion. Israel being our homeland is rooted in the religion. Therefore, from the Orthodox point of view, Israel and it's government should be guided by the Jewish religion. From that point of view, I support a law banning the raising and selling of pork in Israel, regardless of the political motivations behind the current bill in the Knesset. That's not to say that I would have introduced such a bill, or that I think it will pass, and considering the fact that there are many many gentiles living in Israel currently perhaps the bill is inappropriate.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Daniel Rogov » Mon Aug 18, 2008 3:49 pm

Shlomo, Hi....

A well measured and fair response, much appreciated but, as they say on programs such as Boston Legal, as you opened the question, I will follow it up.... Was Israel founded for the Jewish religion or for the Jewish people and that regardless of how or if at all they observe that religion?

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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Mike_F » Mon Aug 18, 2008 4:30 pm

Shlomo R wrote:Since Daniel asked for religious members to respond, here goes.


So many misconceptions in one post it is difficult to know where to start-

Shlomo R wrote:Israel is unique among the countries of the world in that (so far as I know) it is the only country whose entire basis of statehood and foundation is religious


Countries based on and run by theocracies currently include Iran, Saudi Arabia, The Vatican, etc etc etc. Most European countries were founded on religion, and many of them still have state-sanctioned churches. To give just one example, until very recently children born in Sweden were automatically registered as members of the Church of Sweden (see http://www.svenskakyrkan.se/svk/eng/engkyst.htm ).

Shlomo R wrote:Yes, many many non-observant people fought and died for the current State, and I am not making light of that, but those same non-observant people got the idea of Israel as a state from the religion. Israel being our homeland is rooted in the religion.


Excuse my French, but this is BS. Zionism was a secular movement, both socialist and rightist (revizionist) movement that built the state were overwhelmingly secular, and the vast majority of those who fought and died for this country were not religious, certainly not in the way you view the religion.

Shlomo R wrote:Therefore, from the Orthodox point of view, Israel and it's government should be guided by the Jewish religion...


I won't argue with you about the Orthodox point of view. I will however make the point that the only points of view that have any relevance or legitimacy for me as an Israeli are those of people who live here, pay taxes here and do military service here.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by MarkC » Mon Aug 18, 2008 6:32 pm

Mike_F is right, Shlomo R's posting is bull puckey. Modern Zionism was not galvanized by religion, but by European anti-Semitism, and its founders were overwhelmingly secular, if not anti-religious. Indeed, the religious were johnny-come-latelies to Zionism. Arguing that the Israeli state is rooted in religion is simply a tautology (Judaism is a religion, therefore a Jewish country must be religious), and it's wrong. Even the most superficial reading of Zionist history contradicts Shlomo R's assertion.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Stuart Yaniger » Mon Aug 18, 2008 8:23 pm

Hold on, you two, it's a floor wax AND a dessert topping!

"Jewish" does have two meanings, often conflated, often coincident, but often not. My religion is not Jewish, but it is my ethnic/tribal affiliation. And it is for the tribe that the state exists. AFAIK, my lack of religious practice does not debar me from immigrating and becoming a citizen there. But if I believed in the religion but did not belong to the tribe, I would not be able to do so. Is that correct?
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Daniel Rogov » Tue Aug 19, 2008 3:52 am

Stuart, Hi.....

The laws of immigration, like much of the legal system in Israel (well, and in other places as well) are fairly convoluted.
True that belief is not enough but a person who had converted to Judaism can indeed immigrate and immediately attain citizenship and all of the rights involved with that. The problem comes in, and this is indeed a religio-political issue (in fact a hot potato) is of just who converted that person. If that source is "not acceptable" to the various religious authorities in the country, citizenship would be denied. A sometimes pathetic and sad state of affairs that tends to tell reform and conservative Jews that they are "less Jewish" than others......

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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Shlomo R » Tue Aug 19, 2008 9:28 am

Daniel Rogov wrote:Shlomo, Hi....

A well measured and fair response, much appreciated but, as they say on programs such as Boston Legal, as you opened the question, I will follow it up.... Was Israel founded for the Jewish religion or for the Jewish people and that regardless of how or if at all they observe that religion?

Best
Rogov


A good question, Daniel, and one I may not be informed enough to answer. I think that the secular movement definitely intended it for the Jewish people regardless of whether they observe or not. I think that many of the observant elements feel that the Jewish people and the Jewish religion are inseparable. Whether the two groups came to some sort of accord (either at the time of founding or shortly thereafter) I cannot say.

Regarding some of the other responses:
There is a huge difference between a theocracy and a country mapped out because the Bible says "And G-d told Abraham ..."

Most European countries were founded by the last pagan tribe to conquer the area - the religion came quite a bit later. Nowhere in the New Testament does it say "And all Swedes shall automatically be registered as members of the Church of Sweden."

No kidding that the Zionist movement was secular and even anti-religious. But why Israel? The Jews lost their hold on that portion of land over 1800 years before the founding of the state of Israel. If the whole point of the Zionist movement was simply to gain a piece of real estate for ethnic jews to flee to, other real estate could have been acquired. Even the secular leaders knew that it had to be Israel.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Mike_F » Tue Aug 19, 2008 10:58 am

Shlomo R wrote:There is a huge difference between a theocracy and a country mapped out because the Bible says "And G-d told Abraham ..."


You are a prisoner of your own beliefs. There is no difference whatsoever - the theocracy uses their version of holy writings to justify their beliefs. You as an Orthodox Jew take the bible as literal truth, while a Mormon takes the Book of Mormon as literal truth. Strangely enough Orthodox Jews and Mormons have entirely different concepts on the location and significance of the 'New Jerusalem'.
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Daniel Rogov » Tue Aug 19, 2008 11:35 am

As every person will interpret not only the existence of Israel but the meaning of life and the existence of the universe in the light of his/her belief system, so it is in this argument. Let me suggest therefore that like Kansas City, we've gone about as far as we can go* and let's thus go onto other things....

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Rogov

*From the play Oklahoma
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Re: Pig Is Sick - A Distinctly Editorial Comment

by Charlie Dawg » Wed Sep 03, 2008 5:35 pm

With all due respect Daniel, as much as I like and respect you, please allow me to disagree.

I do tend to point out my political views rather often, for witch I have been worn many times. Not necessary on this forum. But since I wasn’t the one who brought politicks into cooking I hope I am not going to get punished this time. :)

Before I go any further I have to let people know about who and what I am. For those who do not know me: I was born Jewish and raised not religious in Ukraine, during Soviet times. For the last 19, almost 19, years I’ve been living in USA. Growing in Ukraine, you learn that pork is the best meat and I do believe :oops: it really is. However, some 10 years ago I became observant, religious Jewish observant that is, and as such I do not eat pork and believe all the Jews should not eat pork, as it is prescribed in our Torah.

Now the point I am trying to make :!: Some time ago I was listening to NPR (national public radio) here in USA. They were interviewing one of hamas leaders. To the question about why are they fighting with Israel he answered, I quote: “No secular state should exist on the territory of The Holly Land!”
Maybe he has a point, or maybe the Knesset has a point in securing at least some Jewish laws. :idea:
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