How do you know when you’re in a Jewish country?
When the security guard at the entrance blocks you from coming in because you are carrying… no, not a weapon … something almost as bad:
Sounds odd, right? But it’s true. It’s against the law in Israel to display or sell any product containing chametz during Passover. Chametz is also prohibited in the nation’s hospitals and other public institutions.
That includes national parks and nature reserves around the country, where security personnel this week are checking visitors’ bags for food as well as bombs, guns and ammunition.
Anyone caught bringing leavened bread or any other form of chametz must stay outside until they are willing to surrender or dispose of the offending item.
In northern Israel, a gaggle of surprised visitors to Afula’s city park were seen eating their sandwiches outside the gate because a security guard at the entrance had stopped them from entering the area.
“The Afula municipal park is a public facility that serves the residents of the city and its environs and so the public is asked to refrain from bringing in chametz during the holiday, as is customary at many other public institutions,” the municipality explained in a statement.
At Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center, security personnel are well prepared in a variety of languages to deal with the inevitable perplexity they face from foreigners unaware of the law. Security checkpoints are well prepared with large metal shelving units set up next to the security desks so the guards can simply place the contraband on a shelf until it can be disposed of properly.
For many bemused non-observant Jewish visitors to the Holy Land, it is their first experience with true observance of the Jewish Laws of Passover — in places they least expected to discover such enforcement.
“Bikinis at the beach in Tel Aviv might lead you to think that Israel is very secular,” commented a tourist who requested anonymity when speaking to JewishPress.com during the intermediate days of the holiday on Tuesday. “But then you try to bring your picnic lunch in when you visit a friend at the hospital, or to the nearby park. And suddenly it’s a whole other world.”