Orthodox Jews Offended By Cheese Halt March Of The Big Mac In Israel

The Daily Telegraph

by Anton La Guardia in Jerusalem; 18 October 1996; UK

Press Index

McDonald's hamburgers which have spread to the four corners of the earth may be forced off television screens in Israel because of objections from religeous Jews offended by the sight of non-kosher food.

After dozens of complaints, an advertising standards committee at Israel's Channel 2 network has recommended removing a McDonald's commercial that offends the observant public.

The advert shows a "virtual" hamburger being assembled with layers of bread, meat and vegetables - and a offending slice of cheese.

The ubiquitous Big Mac reviled by nutritionists and gastronomes could thus become the latest issue of contention between Israel's religeous and secular Jews.

The biblical injunction "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk" (Exod 23:19) is interpreted by rabbis as a prohibition against eating meat and dairy products together.

When McDonald's first opened in Israel three years ago, the company was at pains to ensure that each of its ingredients was kosher. But placing cheese over the meat turns a Big Mac into forbidden food.

Channel 2's board is to discuss the advertisement next week. But senior McDonald's managers believe a ban is certain.

This is a political act. The religeous parties want to prove they have the power to enforce their beliefs on other people's behaviour," said Eytan Bar Zeev, head of development at McDonald's.

"It is ridiculous. We are ready to go to the High Court if necessary. The government has no business running my business.."

Mr Bar-Zeev said the company has considered amending the advertisement, which first appeared in America, by electronically removing the cheese slice. But this was rejected because of the cost.

He said Channel 2 had approved the advert last April and claimed that the election of a Centre Right government that includes religeous parties signalled a change of attitude. The Ministry of Education, which oversees Channel 2, is now controlled by the National Religeous Party.

But Rachel Primor head of the network's committee for commercial ethics shrugged off such allegations: "It has nothing to do with the government. All the people on the committee are now religeous and many people eat non-kosher food at home," she said.

"We were unsure what to do about the advertisement so we let it run for 10 months to let the public decide. After receiveing many complaints, we decided to look at it again." McDonald's outlets are periodically picketed by religeous Jews. But they are a symbol of the wider struggle for Israel's identity should it be like any other country or a self-consciously Jewish state? During the last election the Labour Party television advertisements featured the Golden Arches, as evidence of economic prosperity and foreign investment. The same images were used by the United Torah Judaism Party to decry the loss of Israel's Jewish soul.

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