Threat of non-kosher meat angers Orthodox

Jerusalem - A battle to end the ban on the import of non-kosher meat into Israel may change profoundly the way that Israeli law is interpreted and inflict a blow on Jewish fundamentalists, writes Patrick Cockburn.

Meat companies and a secularist pressure group have petitioned the Supreme Court to end the ban on the ground that it conflicts with the Basic Law of Israel, which guarantees freedom of religion and the rights of property.

The conflict, pitting secular against Orthodox Jews, started when a Tel Aviv company called Meatreal won a case in 1993 against the government monopoly on the import of meat.

The state had always imported only kosher meat products. Meat that was not slaughtered in a way approved by the rabbinate was banned.

The ending of the ban outraged the religious political parties and six months later they used their strength in the Knesset to reinstate it.

Non-kosher food is available in Israel. Many pigs are bred for slaughter in Christian Arab villages and an estimated one million Israelis eat pork regularly.

McDonald's is about to open three kosher restaurants for the first time in Israel. Other restaurant chains offering hamburgers failed to open, as kosher laws forbid mixing meat and dairy products.

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