Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz and MK Idit Silman, October 6, 2021.

Knesset Chairwoman of both the Coalition and the Health Committee MK Idit Silman (Yamina) on Sunday attacked Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), citing the Holocaust, for his letter to the country’s hospitals ordering them not to ban chametz on Passover.

“People in the Holocaust fasted on Passover so as not to eat chametz, and a minister in the State of Israel, in a coalition like ours, unfortunately, says we should let chametz in,” MK Silman told her committee members.

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To be fair, Horowitz did not initiate the move to let chametz into Israeli hospitals. In April 2020, the High Court of Justice ruled that hospitals in Israel do not have the authority to ban chametz on Passover. The court also banned hospital security guards from searching visitors’ belongings for chametz, as well as approaching visitors with any comment, instruction, or suggestion regarding the food they bring in during Passover.

On January 10 this year, the President of the Supreme Court, Justice Esther Hayut, rejected the Chief Rabbinate’s request to hold another hearing on petitions regarding the introduction of external food, including chametz, to hospitals during Passover. Hayut also endorsed the majority opinion in the April 2020 ruling, that the ban on chametz and the requirement that security guards look for chametz in visitors’ belongings constitute a violation of patients’ rights to freedom of religion and privacy.

But while the hospitals in Israel were under the auspices of Haredi health minister Yakov Litzman, the hospitals devised a system of bypassing the high court’s ruling. Last week, Ynet revealed the minutes of a discussion of the Hadassah administration that showed the hospital intended to try and circumvent the ruling by “requesting” employees not to bring in and eat food that’s not kosher for Passover and instructing security personnel to “politely ask” patients and visitors not to bring chametz into the hospital.

Hadassah confirmed this plan, noting that the request would be made “out of consideration for everyone at the medical center,” and that they were “confident that the vast majority of the public will respond positively to the request and show sensitivity to the other.”

Apparently, not if the other in question is Meretz Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz. His letter stated in no uncertain terms that “it is our duty to allow each patient to act in his own way, without coercion.” He also noted: “The patients who stay in the health institutions in Israel and their families would surely be happy to spend the holiday and dine with their loved ones in their homes, and not in the hospital. Therefore, we must preserve the well-being and dignity of those who wish to observe the commandments of the holiday, and also the well-being and dignity of those who do not wish to do so.”

Silman was irate: “Beyond the fact that this is personal affront and contempt for coalition members, it is also contempt for many, almost 70 percent of the public in Israel.”

“In the end, the people of Israel have flags, flags over which many generations have been killed. We will not be able to take part in such a statement. I expect the Minister to respect the public and his coalition members. [Otherwise,] we, with our fingers, will not allow such a person to continue to be a minister. I call on the Minister to issue a directive to the hospitals. A red line was crossed here. This won’t happen on my shift.”

Two points must be made, even though Mk Silman’s fight against the secularization of the Jewish State is admirable and deserves our support:

  1. Israeli hospitals adhere, by and large, to kashrut laws, and the court did not try to stop it. The ruling had to do with the right of individuals not to eat kosher food.
  2. As far as the ability of individuals to adhere to the laws of Passover even should their neighbors choose not to, Jewish law takes care of that, too: the verses regarding chametz on Passover say, “No leaven shall be found in your houses for seven days” (Exodus 12:19), and, “Throughout the seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten; no leavened bread shall be found with you, and no leaven shall be found in all your territory” (Exodus 13:7). In both cases, the inference of the commandment is to You, not the guy in the bed next to yours in the hospital. Also, on the eve of Passover, we give up our ownership of all unleavened substances and even sell them to a gentile.

The proper remedy to MK Silman’s righteous affront would be to forge a coalition government with the right-wing parties and replace the anti-religious Supreme Court Justices. By the way, it’s the solution to many, many affronts.

Hope you stay healthy throughout the holiday and then some.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.