MK predicts hametz boom in hospitals as ultra-Orthodox defend proposed legal ban

At a Knesset Health Committee meeting discussing legislation allowing hospitals to ban hametz foods from hospitals during Passover, Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern warns Haredi colleagues pushing for the bill that it will result in more people purposely bringing in unleavened food to defy the regulations.

“I think this will have the opposite effect… I don’t think this is the time,” he says.

United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni, who is sponsoring the bill, claims that the bill won’t force religious proscriptions on anyone, but rather return a “status quo” removed by a court ruling that forbade the practice of banning foods that religious Jews avoid on Passover.

“A Jew cannot vote against this,” he adds, drawing protests from lawmakers Yulia Malinovsky and Vladimir Beliok, of Yisrael Beytenu and Yesh Atid respectively, who ask if that means they are not Jews.

Committee head Ariel Busso of Shas, who backs the bill, claims that Haredi parties have no interest in passing laws to do with religion, but are being forced to by the courts.

“We just want to return to the situation there was before the court’s decision,” he says, referring to a 2020 ruling ending the practice of banning hametz. “This is a proposal from a community that keeps the status quo and allows mutual respect between people. Everything is consensual, nobody is forcing anything on anyone, no fines will be given, guards won’t search bags or cars, and nobody is checking what people eat at home.”

The bill’s language requires any hospital that advertises itself as kosher to keep out unleavened food during Passover.

In a legal opinion, two advisers from the Attorney General’s Office warned last week that the bill “as it is written today raises significant legal difficulties,” as it would not only ban leavened foods but all foods, save for fresh produce and packaged foods marked “kosher for Passover,” which would infringe on the rights of patients and their guests — and, because it would force hospital security guards to do something they were not hired to do by conducting searches for contraband food, infringe on their rights as well.

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