High Court Slams Government Plan for Non-kosher for Passover Areas at Hospitals

Justices order state to explain why less drastic arrangements for Passover can’t be made

Hadassah University Hospital in Ein Karem, Jerusalem, February 12, 2019.
Emil Salman

The High Court of Justice criticized the government’s proposal to establish areas where chametz – food that isn’t kosher for Passover – can be eaten on hospital grounds during Passover.

In a hearing on the petition against the ban on bringing chametz into hospitals, the High Court ordered the state to explain why it is impossible to find other solutions, such as the use of disposable utensils inside the hospital or another “proportional” solution. It also ordered the state to say why the security guards, who are to stationed at the entrance to hospital buildings to prevent non-kosher for Passover food from being brought in, are involved in such an issue.

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The state is to file its response by June 1 – after Passover this year.

Supreme Court justices Neal Hendel, Uzi Vogelman and Ofer Grosskopf criticized the proposal during the hearing, wondering how the hospital can demand that bedridden patients leave the building to eat chametz outside. The justices also said the government did not provide details on how the rules would be implemented and their cost.

The apparent concern is that the presence of chametz in hospitals might make religiously observant people reluctant to be hospitalized over Passover, posing a risk to their health. The plan was a compromise that the government submitted to the High Court in December, in response to the petition challenging the general ban on chametz in hospitals during Passover.

Last week the State Prosecutor’s Office informed the High Court that the Chief Rabbinate had originally agreed to a proposal to allocate “chametz areas” outside of hospital buildings – but made this agreement conditional on guards being placed at the entrance to every building where food utensils were used. Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit gave his support to his proposal, telling the High Court it was a fair solution for patients and visitors who don’t keep kosher.

Sawsan Zahar, the lawyer representing Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which is one of the petitioners in the case, said the High Court signaled clearly to the government that the proposed solution is coercive, unreasonable and disproportionate, and that a balance must be found to protect the rights of visitors to the hospitals to keep kosher, without violating the freedom of the individual Arab patients and employees – as well as those who do not keep kosher.

Zahar called the special areas “corrals” and said they could humiliate the patients, saying they were not only unreasonable but were also impossible to implement.

The Secular Forum, which is also a petitioner in the case, said the court’s interim order issued on Wednesday meant the court accepted the petitioners’ arguments in full – and placed the burden of proof on the government.