Israel's coalition chairwoman Idit Silman declared that Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz cannot "continue to be a minister" on Sunday following his instructions to hospitals not to block visitors from bringing in bread or other leavened products throughout the Jewish holiday of Passover.
Such products, referred to as 'hametz,' aren't permitted by Jewish law for consumption during the holiday. Silman, who chairs the Knesset's Health Committee, drew comparisons to Jewish observance of this religious law during the Holocaust.
“People during the Holocaust fasted on Passover so as not to eat hametz, and a minister in the State of Israel within a coalition like ours unfortunately says to introduce hametz,” she said.
“I expect the Minister of Health to respect the public and the coalition” and “take into account the feelings of the traditional public,” otherwise, “we can not allow such a person to continue to be a minister,” she declared, accusing Horowitz of “crossing of a red line.”
Sliman’s comments came after the Ynet news site reported that Horowitz sent a letter to hospital chiefs last week in which he called for compliance with a 2020 High Court decision ruling that hospitals do not have the authority to ban visitors bringing in hametz on Passover, to search the food that visitors might be carrying, or to comment on the foods' compliance with Jewish dietary requirements.
According to the report, officials at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital were planning on asking people to refrain from bringing in such food products on a voluntary basis.
The Secular Forum, one of the parties to the 2020 suit which ended the hametz bans, said in a tweet that Sliman “seeks to harm the weak and helpless, oncology patients, the elderly, maternity [patients], hospitalized children, and prevent them from eating home-made food on Passover.”
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Last January, the court denied a request by the Chief Rabbinate and then-Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit for a rehearing of its ruling, with Supreme Court President Esther Hayut stating that banning hametz violates the visitors’ basic rights.
The Chief Rabbinate expressed disappointment with the decision at the time, saying it “harms a majority of the public and the Jewish character of the state.”