Next week, the Israel Navy will launch a competition between elite naval commando unit Shayetet 13's missile ship crews to see who has the fewest violations of the laws of kashrut. The prize? A "fun day" in the IDF Rabbinate – including a tour of a heritage site, a talk with a rabbi, a full-length performance by the house troupe, and a barbecue – all 100% kosher, of course.
- Op-ed: The rabbis and the army
In recent years, as the number of observant soldiers in the Israel Navy's various units increased, the IDF Rabbinate identified the missile ships' Achilles' heel – because of the unique on-board conditions, the sailors cook for themselves in the galley, without familiarity of the laws of kashrut, which leads to many violations.
A non-kosher galley stays treyf until the ship docks (Photo: Hagai Aharon)
Since the ships are at sea, there is no way of sending out representatives of the rabbinate to purify dishes or instruments that have been made non-kosher. The solution is to give the soldiers an incentive to maintain the galleys' kashrut, especially those who don't keep kosher.
The Israel Navy Rabbinate launched the competition as a way of increasing awareness of the issue and the IDF hopes that it will help increase bonding and the sense of brotherhood within the unit.
Starting next week, the number of each crew's kashrut violations over the course of a month will be counted, and the one with the lowest number will be declared the winner. In the event of a tie, the winner will be determined through routine inspections of the ships.
"Kashrut problems are very common," a military source explained. "It makes religious soldiers serving on board the ships uncomfortable, since they are forced to make to with dry goods that don't need to be cooked until the ship docks again and the galley can be made kosher. It damages the cohesiveness of the unit."