The management of Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem has decided to place attendants at the entrances to its two Jerusalem hospitals during the Passover holiday who will ask visitors to refrain from bringing “chametz” – leavened foods that are not kosher for Passover – into its hospital buildings.
The Hadassah Organization at large made it clear, however, that the attendants will not inspect visitors’ bags and will not confiscate food that is not kosher for Passover.
According to Hadassah officials, hospital management has come under pressure from the ultra-Orthodox community to prevent chametz from entering Hadassah’s two Jerusalem hospitals – at Ein Karem and Mount Scopus – and decided to station the attendants.
Although the policy may fall within a legal gray area, it has made Health Ministry officials and some Hadassah employees uneasy. For its part, the Hadassah Medical Organization said it is fully complying with a ruling by the High Court of Justice on the subject.
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In April 2020, the High Court ruled that Israeli hospitals have no authority to ban chametz from their premises during Passover, which begins the evening of April 15, or to inspect food being brought into the hospital or comment regarding non-kosher food. A sweeping ban on bringing in food that is not kosher for Passover “violates fundamental rights of the first order regarding the autonomy of the individual and freedom from religion,” the court ruled. It ordered the country’s hospitals, the Health Ministry and the Chief Rabbinate to find a solution consistent with its ruling.
Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz sent a letter to the directors of the country’s hospitals, sparking a political controversy plaguing the ruling coalition, in which he wrote that in advance of Passover, he wished to remind them “to take care to comply with the April 20, 2020 ruling by the High Court of Justice and to permit the public at large to bring food of any kind onto the hospital premises in a manner that will not prevent consumption of food of the patient’s choice in the personal space at their disposal.”
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“I would ask you to direct the security staff at your institutions to refrain from searching food products of any kind in the containers and belongings of the visitors – also in accordance with the above High Court ruling,” he added.
Noting that hospital patients and their families would surely prefer to be celebrating the holiday at home rather than at the hospital, Horowitz wrote: "We must protect the well-being and dignity of those interested in observing the holiday commandments as well as the well-being and dignity of those who do not wish to do so. It is our duty to permit every patient to following his own path without compulsion.”
Earlier this week, Idit Silman, the coalition whip for Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government, took Horowitz to task for the letter and said that he could not “continue to be a minister.” On Wednesday, she resigned from the coalition, resulting in the government losing its majority in the Knesset after 10 months in power.
In a response to this article, the Hadassah Medical Organization said, “Hadassah is acting in accordance with the High Court’s directives. At the entrance to the medical center, visitors will be asked by the attendants to show consideration for feelings and to the extent possible to refrain from bringing chametz in. Nevertheless, the visitors’ bags will not be subject to any search and no food will be [confiscated] at the entrance.”