(JTA) — The president of the World Jewish Congress is not accepting the Michelin travel company’s claims that Israel would not generate enough “gastronomic interest” or “potential readers” for its own restaurant guide.
In a letter sent to the Michelin Guide’s editor-in-chief on May 18 and obtained Wednesday by JTA, Ronald Lauder argued that the “facts speak for themselves” when it comes to potential readership of an Israeli Michelin guide.
“Israel draws over 3 million tourists per year, who together contribute $11 billion to the Israeli economy. This includes the $2 billion spent in Israel’s robust industry of 4,000 restaurants,” Lauder wrote in the letter to Juliane Caspar.
Israel does not have any Michelin-reviewed eateries and is not included on the Michelin website, which includes travel and restaurant guides for other Middle Eastern countries such as Jordan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and civil war-ravaged Syria.
Michelin guide spokesperson Samuelle Dorol had told The Associated Press last month that there are no current plans to produce a Michelin guide to Israel for commercial reasons.
“You have to have potential readers,” Dorol said.
Lauder took “strong issue” with Dorol’s assessment.
“Beyond its restaurants, Israel boasts some of the most famous historical sites in the world, from the Western Wall to Masada. I fail to see how this points to an inhospitable audience for a Michelin guide or ineligibility for consideration of a Michelin star,” Lauder wrote.
The WJC president, son of the late cosmetics pioneer Estee Lauder, had sent a previous letter asking why Israel’s “exceptional culinary scene” had not prompted any Michelin evaluations. He hinted that the reason for Israel’s exclusion could be political.
At least one Israeli chef, Moshik Roth, has received a coveted Michelin star, but for a restaurant in the Netherlands.
“Though I am sure that it is not your intention, some have speculated that reasons other than merit color Michelin’s decision not to visit Israel,” Lauder wrote.
The Michelin company has not responded to a request for comment sent after European business hours.
“We have not had the opportunity to do a guide there,” Dorot told the AP. “But that doesn’t mean we will never have one.”