And then they came for my Osem soup

It’s tough enough finding kosher food in Edinburgh, without a boycott making it harder

By Stephanie Brickman, May 7, 2009

Leaving my wild-eyed, pre-Shabbat, mummy persona behind, along with the smell of burnt kugel and a detailed list for my husband, I strode out.

Shabbat wasn’t until 8.30 and in the intervening three hours I would be covering a talk by Palestinian union official, Manawel Abdellal, invited guest of the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

The event was timed to crow about the STUC’s decision to back a boycott of Israel. It just felt like it was timed to thwart me on a Shabbat when we had guests, no time and a very large chicken.

The meeting was conducted in the language of rewritten history. The Haganah are the “ethnic cleansing militia”, the security fence the “Apartheid wall” and Israel itself is the “Zionist Apartheid state”.

There’s talk of a “list of shame” and genteel Edinburgh voices discuss the weekly encampment outside “Tescoo” to dissuade shoppers from purchasing Israeli goods.

There are frequent assertions that the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is not antisemitic and reassurances that kosher products will not be targeted per se.

However, if the Campaign is successful in persuading local supermarkets not to stock Israeli products, then keeping kosher up here in the sticks is about to become a whole lot trickier.

One of the earliest initiatives the Nazis took to oppress Jewish life in the 1930s was to make it hard to get kosher meat. Fortunately for provincial British Jews, we have Titanics. This Manchester deli will deliver to the remotest location and without Titanics we would be sunk, if you’ll pardon the convoluted metaphor.

Rations are supplemented in our community by fortnightly deliveries to the synagogue from Mark’s Deli in Glasgow. Every other Thursday evening is quite a social event, now, for the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, although collecting your groceries from an unmarked van under cover of darkness does rather underline the feeling of marginalisation that keeping kosher can give you.

In a city where kosher foods are limited and the selection repetitive, anything from Israel is snapped up. How are the boycotters going to make the distinction between the kosher products they have pledged not to target and other products from Israel?

I have a fantasy of Scottish Jewry, barricading Sainsbury’s, crying Braveheart style: “They may take our lives but they’ll never take our Tivall vegetarian sausages!”

The meeting draws to a close, I bolt for the car — just 20 minutes to candle lighting.

Five minutes to candle lighting and I burst through our front door barking orders and demanding progress updates.

My husband looks at me blankly. “What list?” he asks.

After much octopus-like flailing in the kitchen, candles are lit, guests arrive and “Shabbes zol zayn”.

Despite a pasty looking chicken, tepid cauliflower and the spectre of life without Yarden dips, a glow of Shabbat contentment settles on us all.

I tell our guests about my evening. At last there’s debate. Hanita, an exchange student from Jerusalem, tells us how someone stood on her foot recently and asked how she liked the feeling of “occupation”. I show them a campaign poster with a hand dropping money into an IDF helmet. Hanita’s cheeks flush red with anger. “I should thank them,” she said, “they’ve reminded me I can never stop fighting for my country.”

    Last updated: 12:44pm, May 7 2009