Esor Ben-Sorek

The Artichoke War

The Jewish community in Italy, especially in Rome, a two-thousand year old community, has been enjoying a special dish for the past 500 years. Carciofi alla giudia, whole artichoke deep fried in olive oil has now been declared treif (unkosher) by the Israeli Orthodox rabbinate.

For 500 years Italian Jewish families have been cooking, eating and enjoying this delicacy unhindered by rabbinical interference. Italian rabbis have never regarded the artichoke as non-kosher.

For the Israeli rabbinate the problem lies in the possibility of bugs or small insects inside the leaves of the artichoke and they insist that the leaves be removed and carefully washed.

By removing the leaves, the Carciofi would not be a Carciofi. It must be fried whole and intact in olive oil. To eliminate the possible suggestion of insects, the Italian orthodox rabbis simply recommend that the whole artichoke be soaked in salted water for at least six minutes and then washed before frying.

As if we do not have enough problems of war with Hamas, Isis, Gaza, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria and the never-ending theocratic dilemma of our own Israeli rabbinate, must we now take on the Israeli rabbinate and declare war on the artichoke, depriving Italy’s Jewish communities?

In an article written by Simone Somekh of Turin, Italy entitled “Italy’s Jews to Israel’s Rabbinate: Hands Off Our Artichokes”, the author describes the history of the Carciofi alla giudia.

Even its very name describes it as it has been called for the past 500 years… the artichoke of the Jews

It was a main dish in the ancient ghettos of Rome and is to Italian Jews what cholent is to Eastern European Ashkenazi Jews.

If you can imagine the Israeli rabbinate declaring that cholent is treif, what will be next?

Is it possible that they will decide that gefilte fish is also forbidden? And what of the horseradish that accompanies the fish? Must the radish also be checked for insects?

I have never tasted an artichoke. It was never a vegetable in my home. But members of my family who do eat it, praise its delicate and delicious taste.

Now the Israeli rabbinate wants to destroy the 2,000 years memories of Italy’s Jews and deprive them of their beloved 500 year old delicacy.

Have our rabbis nothing better to do with their time?

Instead of condemning fellow rabbis here and abroad who indulge in illicit sexual relations and who often molest young yeshiva pupils, it would be far better for them to be concerned with the major problems that the non-Orthodox Jews have with them.

As Simone Somekh concluded in his open message to the Israeli rabbinate. “Certainly the rabbis of Italy can educate the members of their communities on how to check for bugs in vegetables without the need of the Israeli rabbinate to interfere… we consider that the Israeli rabbinate should first and foremost take care of its own dirty laundry”.

To that worthy comment I say “Amen” and I add my own criticism to our rabbis in Israel…

“Tenere Le Mani Fuori La Mia Pizza”. Keep your hands off my pizza ! Viva Italia.

About the Author
Esor Ben-Sorek is a retired professor of Hebrew, Biblical literature & history of Israel. Conversant in 8 languages: Hebrew, Yiddish, English, French, German, Spanish, Polish & Dutch. Very proud of being an Israeli citizen. A follower of Trumpeldor & Jabotinsky & Begin.
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