The spokesperson for the Israeli delegation at the World Cup in Qatar said Monday that Jewish fans will be able to find kosher food on site, despite previous reports that Qatar would restrict the sale of food permitted to observant Jews.
“Several rabbis from other Gulf countries and the United States have taken initiatives to provide kosher food to Jewish and Israeli tourists,” the Israeli consular spokesperson, Alon Lavi, told i24NEWS.
World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder released an earlier statement saying he was “outraged by reports that Qatari authorities have banned the sale of cooked kosher food as well as prohibited Jews from congregating for public prayer, in connection with their presence at the World Cup.”
“With tens of thousands of observant Jews expected to travel to the country in the coming weeks, this announcement effectively makes their attendance impossible,” Lauder’s statement said.
While kosher food is now 'back on the table,' Qatari officials walked back an earlier promise to permit Jewish prayer on site, despite observant Jews requiring a framework to safely pray as a group three times a day. The Qatari officials who instituted the new ban said they could not provide sufficient security for Jews in prayer.
“We were promised to be allowed to create prayer spaces in order for religious Jews who came to see the games to have a place of worship. We were recently told that they banned places of worship for Jews because they cannot secure them,” said a representative from one Jewish organization.
Meanwhile, Rabbi Marc Schneier from New York is still slated to take the helm over Qatar’s first-ever kosher facilities, making use of Qatar Airways’ kitchen, now kashered for the FIFA 2022 games, being played Nov. 20-Dec. 18.
“Qatari officials told me about three of their goals for this World Cup: to welcome Jewish and Israeli supporters, to provide access to kosher food for observant Jews, and to set up direct flights between Tel Aviv and Doha. And all of these goals have been met,” Schneier told i24NEWS.
In light of the requirement for observant Jews to meet for prayer, Lauder’s statement underlined the urgency of the need, saying: “The World Jewish Congress, whose Executive Committee will meet in the coming days at the Vatican, calls upon FIFA and the Qatari government to safeguard the ability of Jewish fans to openly practice their faith.”
First direct flight from Tel Aviv to Qatar
The first-ever direct flight from Tel Aviv to Doha took off on Sunday morning, carrying both Israeli and Palestinian soccer fans.
As many as 10,000 Jews and Arabs from Israel are expected to attend the World Cup games which began on Sunday.
Although there are no formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Qatar, several months of negotiations resulted in an agreement allowing Israeli citizens and Palestinians to travel directly to Qatar for the World Cup games. At least 1,000 travelers are expected to take advantage of the opportunity to take a direct flight to Doha.
The Doha-bound TUS Airways airplane that lifted off at 10:55 a.m. from Ben-Gurion International Airport was completely full, with 180 passengers on board. Roundtrip tickets to Qatar are selling for $550 and are in high demand.
TUS is expected to offer 12 flights (six in each direction) during the World Cup, enabling some 1,000 passengers to travel directly to the Gulf state from Israel.
The boarding passes for the Sunday flight (U8 1162) were printed with the words “making history” in Hebrew, Arabic and English, alongside the Israeli, Qatari and Cypriot flags.
Thousands of other Israelis and Palestinians have booked more expensive, non-direct flights to Qatar on other Middle Eastern airlines.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.