The pumping of water from Lake Kinneret will be suspended at the end of next week because of concerns that it could contain leavening, which Jewish law prohibits the consumption of during the Passover holiday
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Until 1995, only the most extreme Haredi Jewish sects in Israel worried amount leavening in tap water and dealt with it by tying cloth strainers to their faucets.
In that year, then-Deputy Jerusalem Mayor Meir Porush persuaded the authorities not to supply the holy city with water from the Kinneret during the week of Passover. Porush said he was responding to the concerns of yeshiva students who followed the early-20th-century sage the Chazon Ish. They were concerned that if a crumb fell into the Kinneret, whoever used that water would have failed [to avoid] leavening on Passover, he said.
The arrangement went into effect in the city of Bnei Brak, an ultra-Orthodox stronghold, even before Jerusalem.
Cutting off most of the state from the Kinneret water supply is a continuation of the process of unbridled extremism that has been forced on us by Haredi politicians," said Rabbi Uri Regev, the director of the religious-freedom organization Hiddush. "Their demands show Judaism in a ridiculous and ignorant light. The extremism manifests itself in areas such as kashrut, conversion, discrimination against women and more.
In 2004, the demand to stop pumping water from the Kinneret was rejected because of concerns of flooding following a rainy winter.
Not all Haredi groups believe the ban on water from Lake Kinneret during Passover is necessary. Kinneret water is permitted on Passover, said Rabbi Raphael Cohen, the leader of a large Haredi group in Tiberias and the head of kashrut for the municipality, citing the authority of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.