The coalition whip, MK Idit Silman (Yamina), attacked Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz during a meeting of the Knesset Labor, Welfare and Health Committee, which she chairs, for daring to demand that hospitals obey the law and allow chametz to be brought in on Pesach. Perhaps to shore up her position on the right, which has been shaky ever since the mysterious incident last year in which she claimed to have been attacked at a gas station, she threatened, “We won’t allow him to be a minister.”
Early last year, the High Court of Justice issued a definitive ruling that hospitals have no authority to prevent people from bringing in chametz. But it turns out that some hospitals weren’t impressed by that ruling and decided to try to circumvent it. Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital, for instance, thought to ask the institution’s employees not to bring chametz in or eat it on the premises, and to instruct security guards to “politely ask” patients and visitors not to bring chametz into the hospital. In response, Horowitz sent a letter to all hospital directors last week demanding that they uphold the law and comply with the court’s ruling.
Instead of backing the health minister, who was merely asking hospitals to obey the law, Silman decided to attack him using embarrassingly cheap demagoguery. “The entire country is in an uproar over the situation,” she said, referring to the recent string of terror attacks. “But the health minister has seen fit to issue a statement about chametz on Pesach in the hospitals – places that are all about collegiality and consideration for others.”
Moreover, she continued, “people during the Holocaust fasted on Pesach so as not to eat chametz, yet a minister in the State of Israel who belongs to a coalition like ours is, regrettably, telling [hospitals] to bring in chametz.”
And when she finished her comparison to the Holocaust, she moved on to Independence Day demagoguery. “The people of Israel finally have flags, flags that entire generations of people died for, and we, certainly in the current government, won’t be party to taking them down.” Her finale was a threat: “We, through our votes, can’t enable someone like this to continue being a minister.”
Silman can threaten as much as she pleases. But Horowitz did what the law requires him to do.
The lesson we should learn from Silman’s ridiculous behavior is clear: We must not make do with forbidding hospitals to bar the entry of chametz, because there are people who see this as a green light for continuing to impose religious coercion through other means.
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Instead, we must now fight to get hospitals to provide non-kosher meals to patients who don’t observe kashrut. The High Court ruled that “imposing a ban on eating certain foods for religious reasons on people who aren’t interested in this undermines their freedom from religion and their autonomy to live their lives according to their own values and wishes.” In this spirit, we must demand that hospitals also provide suitable meals for people who don’t observe kashrut on Pesach.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.