Israel allows hospitals to ban bread during Passover in ultra-Orthodox win

Israel allows hospitals to ban bread during Passover in ultra-Orthodox win
Israel's ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party has long pushed for the bread ban during Passover.
2 min read
28 March, 2023
The banning of bread during Passover has long been a divisive issue in Israeli politics [Getty]

Israel's parliament has approved a ban on leavened products entering hospitals during Passover, reflecting the growing power of the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in the country.

The Knesset passed the so-called 'Chametz Law' by 48 votes to 43 on Monday, allowing Israeli hospitals to forbid patients bringing in non-kosher leavened bread products - such as rolls and sandwiches - during the Jewish holiday.

Chametz is leavened food that is traditionally banned during Passover, an eight-day festival that will take place later next month.

The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party - a coalition government party - wanted to give hospital security guards the power to search patients for non-kosher products, but the bill was watered down to allow health officials to "use their own judgment in how to notify visitors and staff" on the rules.

Despite the apparent compromise, opposition MKs were furious with the law and said it highlights the growing power of the religious right in the country.

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"[This] is the first harbinger of an unprecedented wave of religious legislation," said Reform rabbi and Labor MK Gilad Kariv.

"Like all laws that violate freedom of religion and conscience, this law will not increase respect for Jewish tradition."

Israel's Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara said the bill "raises considerable constitutional difficulties" and could infringe on human rights.

The banning of chametz has been a major issue for ultra-Orthodox parties but a fringe one for most Israelis.

Despite this, the issue is an emotive one in Israeli politics. In 2022, MK Idit Silman defected from Netanyahu's coalition, leading to the downfall of the government, after the health minister allowed chametz to enter public hospitals during the Jewish holiday.

Some United Torah Judaism MKs have also called for bans on Christian evangelizing and the further implementation of Jewish law into legislation in Israel.