Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, a long-serving ultra-Orthodox MK from United Torah Judaism, has reportedly refused to promote or undergo rectal or colon cancer testing, preferring instead to recite Psalms, Ynet reported.
According to the report, Dr. Shlomo Lewkowicz, the head of a cancer awareness organization, invited Litzman to get tested as part of a campaign aimed at the ultra-Orthodox public, but was told that the deputy minister “would suffice with reading Psalms.”
Lewkowicz also claimed that, citing so-called modesty issues, ultra-Orthodox newspapers and websites had refused to run advertisements promoting colonoscopies, which doctors often recommend that patients over the age of 50 undergo every five or 10 years.
Lewkowicz said that every day, 10 new cases of rectal or colon cancer are diagnosed in Israel, five of which can prove to be fatal; however, a simple colonoscopy can often detect the cancer before it reaches a life-threatening stage.
He said that testing rates for the general public over age 50 were low (around 20 percent get tested) — and even lower than that among the ultra-Orthodox and Arab public — a situation which he attributed to religious attitudes that don’t place a high priority on preventative medicine, and consider the human body between the knees and the navel a taboo subject.
In response, Lewkowicz’s organization ran a series of humorous notices in the Mea Shearim neighborhood of Jerusalem promoting free colonoscopies but, he said, they were quickly taken down.