It’s a safe bet Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has never had a day like Monday, when he was expected to rule on the kosher status of several varieties of antelope from central Africa.
After all, it’s not every day his office table is turned into a showroom for heads, feet and intestines of a variety of African animals.
A rabbi and a businessman
The exhibit was part of a push by an Ashdod rabbi and businessman named Eli Peretz. All the animals - eland, oryx, deer, fallow and kodo - are related to the antelope, and Peretz says they all meet the Torah’s requirements to be kosher.
About three years ago, Peretz discovered the animals roaming around south-western Africa, and said they are kosher.
He started procedures to import the meat of these animals to Israel, and received a license to hunt them in the deserts and jungles of Namibia.
In order to breathe life into his vision, Peretz met with Namibian president Sam Nujoma to discuss possibilities to develop a new up-and-coming export market.
If Monday's inspection goes as planned, many different kinds of meats can be expected to make their way to Israel soon. If the experiment succeeds, and there is a wide enough audience for the animals, Peretz even plans to create farms to grow the animals here.
New to Israel
Whatever bureaucratic red tape that may delay the plan, Peretz faces a bigger challenge in order to realize his dream of importing the meat: antelope meat is foreign to most Israeli palates.
In South Africa, religious Jews have eaten these animals for years. But here in the holy land, everything is just a bit more complicated.
Despite the fact that these animals meet the Torah’s requirements for kashrut – they chew their cud and have split hooves – a tradition developed in recent generations not to eat them.
Must have seven teeth
As part of the process of receiving a rabbinic okay, the rabbinate checked the animals. On Monday, Rabbi Amar and his staff will conduct their final inspections, including the number of teeth in the mouth of each animal, because according to Jewish law a kosher animal must have at least seven teeth.
In addition, the feet will be checked to make sure the hooves are indeed split, heads will be measured for the distance between their horns, and the intestines for the amount of cud they chew.
Should Amar decide the animals are acceptable, kosher carnivores will no longer have to make due with a leg of chicken, beef steak or veal kebab.
The animals are likely to be a welcome addition to kosher menus, traditionally considered sparse, consisting mainly of chicken, beef, veal and turkey.
Rabbi Peretz promises an honest-to-goodness gastronomic revival: “we will finally be able to taste new kinds of meat, animals that Jews haven’t eaten for 2,000 years.”