When I came to Jerusalem three years ago to study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish studies, I was returning to a familiar city. Unlike many of my classmates I had lived in Jerusalem five years before on a gap year program and knew my way around the city. I knew where the independent bookstores were, where my kind of synagogues met, and what restaurants had the best food. When my father came to visit me in October it was obvious that I would take him to some of my favorite restaurants on Emek Refaim.
A few months into my program someone came to give a present to us from Bema’aglei Tzedek, a social justice organization based in Jerusalem. She spoke to us about how Israel had some of the best laws in the world regarding workers’ rights but that almost none of them were enforced. Workers in restaurants were especially suffering. Their basic rights were being denied — such as pay for overtime, sick days and other egregious offenses.
She recommended that we try to eat in places that had the Tav Chevrati, an initiative of Bema’aglei Tzedek: a social seal that certified that Jerusalem restaurants were doing the legal minimum for their workers. It was not a grand act of social justice where thousands march in the street demanding freedom, but it was daily social justice we could all participate in that would practically affect people’s lives.
As someone who tries to live my life as an ethical person I bought into the idea immediately and was horrified to see almost all of my favorite restaurants did not have the Tav. Though the memory of honey mushroom gnocchi haunts me to this day, I have not stepped foot into any of those restaurants on Emek Refaim since.
For two years my husband and I tried our best to eat only in Tav-certified restaurants. During my second year at Pardes I made sure to tell all my friends about the Tav so that they too could help bring about change. However, when we had visitors or went out with friends and they wanted to go to a restaurant without the Tav we usually went along, not wanting to cause problems. I did not want to be the radical friend whom people felt like they could not invite because they had to have too many considerations in mind — I am also a vegetarian and have food allergies, yet I felt guilty every time I went to a non-Tav-certified restaurant.
This October, during my third year here in Jerusalem, Bema’aglei Tzedek launched the Tav Pledge where individuals commit to specific ways of supporting the Tav Chevrati. This was the push I had been searching for. I signed the Pledge and promised that I would only eat in places that had the Tav, and since then I have not eaten anywhere that does not have it. When friends invite me out I let them know I am a Tav pledger – and despite all my fears they are only too happy to accommodate me. Some have even become Tav pledgers afterwards!
Sometimes I feel like there are so many problems in the world that I don’t know where to begin to help solve them. But then I go out to a romantic candle-lit dinner with my husband and enjoy some of the best focaccia you have ever tasted. When I leave a card at the end of the meal that says “I ate here because you have the Tav,” suddenly I don’t feel so hopeless anymore.
Please join me by letting Bema’aglei Tzedek know how you want to support the Tav at http:pledge.tav.org.il.