Bon Appetite: The Chief Rabbinate on Monday rendered water buffalo meat kosher. The kashrut certification was issued by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar following a request by two researchers from Bar-Ilan University.
Water buffalos used to be common in Israel, particularly near swamps and streams. Buffalo remains were found near the brooks of Israel's coastal plane, Tiberias and the Hula nature reserve.
Some identify the water buffalo with an animal mentioned in the bible, and according to data from the British Mandate, about 5,000 buffalos used to live in Israel. Few of them can still be seen in the Hula nature reserve. Since then, no water buffalos have been bred in Israel and the buffalo meat was not rendered kosher by the Chief Rabbinate.
In order to declare meat kosher it is not enough for the specific animal to bear the signs mentioned in the bible testifying to its kashrut. According to the Halacha (Jewish law), there must also be a "tradition" testifying to the fact that the same animal was consumed in the past by kosher-keeping Jews.
Dr. Zohar Amar and Dr. Ari Zivotofsky, researchers from Bar-Ilan University, have been working in the past two years to find proof that would allow water buffalo meat to be declared kosher.
The two presented the chief rabbi with Halachic and historical sources proving that water buffalo slaughtering was a custom among Jewish communities in the past, as well as testimonies of elderly butchers, who were responsible for slaughtering buffalos in the past in Jerusalem, Petach Tikva, Bnei Brak and the Galilee.
Rabbi Shlomo Amar later met with the research team and representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture in the Hula nature reserve, where he closely watched the buffalos in the area and personally examined the teeth structure and hoofs of a water buffalo skeleton presented to him.
This week, the rabbi once again examined buffalos being raised in Moshav Bitzron in the south of Israel, where he declared that after looking at all the data presented to him he will issue the longed-for kashrut certification.
Following the rabbi's ruling, water buffalo breeders will be able to market the animal's meat and milk under an official Chief Rabbinate authorization.
According to the researchers, water buffalo meat is very popular worldwide and offers great market potential, while buffalo milk is considered to be of very high quality, particularly for the production of cheese. In addition, it is said to have many medicinal qualities.