“Kosher” is an adjective (“Kashrut” is the noun) used to describe food that is “fit” or “clean” or, in other words, prepared and served according to Judaism’s 3,000-year-old dietary laws. The complete list of kosher foods is found in the book of Leviticus.
However, in general, kashrut prohibits the eating of pork and shellfish, or the mixing of meat ingredients with dairy ingredients (It’s more complicated than that, but these are the basic nuts and bolts).
This means that certain foods that are common for Americans would not be found on a kosher menu – things like cheeseburgers or pepperoni pizza. However, Israel is a land of almost limitless cuisines and the food is nothing short of spectacular.
An interesting aspect of “keeping kosher” is that the pots, pans, and dishes that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have been used with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food (this rule applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot). To ensure this rule is observed, many hotels have separate kitchens for meat meals and dairy meals. And many restaurants serve only one or the other.
Kosher foods are divided in to three categories: Meat, Dairy, and Pareve. Pareve are foods that are neither meat nor dairy and can be served at any time.
Breakfast is typically a diary meal and will consist of milk, butter, yogurt, cheese, along with pareve items like breads and baked goods, vegetables, fruits, salads, eggs, and fish (yes, fish is usually on the breakfast buffet).
Dinner is a meat meal and may include beef, chicken, lamb, or fish and a vast array of salads, vegetables, fruits, pasta, and non-dairy desserts.
Lunch can be either a meat meal or a dairy meal, depending on what you choose.
Many Israelis observe kashrut – or some version of it. Almost every hotel in Israel is kosher (so that anyone can eat or stay there), but the majority of Israeli restaurants are not kosher. Restaurants that are kosher display a Kashrut Certificate; kosher restaurants usually close after lunch on Friday and don’t reopen until late Saturday night, or noon on Sunday.