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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 February 2008, 12:06 GMT
Israel hit by spring-roll strike
Generic image of sushi
Asian restaurants are popular in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv
Asian restaurants in Israel are taking popular dishes off the menu in protest at government plans to cut the number of foreign chefs.

About 300 Asian restaurants refused to serve spring rolls on Tuesday, said the Israeli Ethnic Restaurant Organisation.

It says eateries will refuse orders for noodles and sushi in the coming weeks if planned restrictions are not eased.

New work permits for Asian chefs are being cut, and next year the government will not grant any new permits.

This year, the government is granting 500 permits to Asian chefs, down from 900 last year.

Last month, the Israeli Ethnic Restaurant Organisation appealed against the move in the Supreme Court, and is currently waiting for a decision.

Special skills

The head of the organisation said that Tuesday's strike had been a success and that a follow-up strike was planned in two weeks for sushi and noodles.

"Public opinion has been more than supportive," the head of the organisation, Arnon Volosky told the BBC News website.

Everyone can make Chinese food, it's not impossible to learn
Shoshana Strauss
Government lawyer

"Customers say they are shocked and can't live without South Asian food. People have been asking to set up a petition to hand in to the government," he said.

As part of its move to cut five-year foreign work permits, the government has committed to training more Israelis to become specialist chefs.

Government lawyer Shoshana Strauss told the Reuters news agency that "everyone can make Chinese food, it's not impossible to learn".

However, Mr Volosky said training opportunities had failed to materialise, and that coming from an Asian background was essential to the making of a good chef.

"Some things you have to grow up with. These restaurants come from a culture that we [Israelis] don't have the skills or know-how or cultural behaviour to do well. You have to respect this," he said.

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