13 hospitals to defy Passover bread ban, more than double last year’s number

In 2018, just 5 medical centers in Israel ignored directive from rabbinate and Health Ministry to confiscate leavened food products

Illustrative photo of an Israeli hospital (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an Israeli hospital (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Thirteen hospitals have announced they will not follow the annual directive from the Chief Rabbinate and the Health Ministry to actively ban food that is not kosher for Passover during the upcoming Jewish holiday.

The hospitals told Army Radio on Tuesday they would not instruct their security guards to check visitors and patients for hametz, leavened food products that do not comply with Passover regulations.

The hospitals are: Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center and Carmel Medical Center, Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, Ziv Medical Center in Safed, Yoseftal Hospital in Eilat, Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba, Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv, Sheba Hospital at Tel Hashomer, Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon, Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, Haemek Hospital in Afula and the Hillel Yaffe Medical Center in Hadera.

The hospitals said they would put up signs asking patients to refrain from bringing leavened bread products inside the wards, but told the radio station they would not actively block any food from entering their premises.

Three hospitals told Army Radio they would uphold the directive: Hadassah’s two campuses in Jerusalem and Laniado Hospital in Netanya.

The presence of leavened food products in hospitals during Passover is an ongoing source of friction between religious authorities and secular activists who say the directive is a form of religious coercion.

Workers prepare matzah, the unleavened bread eaten during the eight-day Jewish holiday of Passover, in Aviv Matzah plant in Bnei Brak on April 14, 2019 (Courtesy Flash 90)

Though hospitals risk losing their Rabbinate-issued kashrut license for refusing to implement the ban, an increasing number of institutions are choosing to ignore the rules. Last Passover, five hospitals disregarded the orders, less than half the number of hospitals that vowed to defy the Health Ministry in 2019.

Last March, the Secular Forum NGO together with opposition lawmakers petitioned the High Court of Justice seeking to have the ban outlawed. But the state sided with the Health Ministry, headed by an ultra-Orthodox lawmaker, Yaakov Litzman.

In its decision, the court suggested that hospitals set up cordoned-off areas where patients and visitors could eat food that is not kosher for Passover.

The plaintiffs blasted the ruling and the suggestion as “unreasonable” and an attack on Israel’s secular and non-Jewish populations.

The Passover custom of eating only unleavened products commemorates the Exodus of the Jewish People from Egypt, which, according to the Bible, took place so quickly that they did not have time for their bread to rise.

Passover begins this year on Friday night, April 19.

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