Bread soon to be banned in Israeli hospitals?

A man carrying bread at a bakery in Jerusalem, September 17, 2020 (illustration image). © MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

Text by: Sami Boukhelifa Follow

2 min

A new law prohibits the entry into hospitals of the Jewish state of foods based on wheat in particular, and containing sourdough. And it's not for health or dietary reasons.


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From our correspondent in Jerusalem,

The feast of Pesach (the Jewish Passover) commemorates the exit from Egypt, the exodus of the Jewish people, who fled the pharaoh who enslaved them. A hasty departure to the Promised Land, during which the children of Israel do not have time to bake their bread. Since then, it has been tradition: on Passover Jews no longer eat bread and pasta in particular. And anything that contains yeast, hametz.

In supermarkets, the shelves where these products are usually displayed are even covered with large plastic sheeting. During this period, these foods are no longer on sale. If tradition is followed to the letter, the Jewish state should not even have them in its possession. To avoid destroying them, a solution exists: all these foodstuffs are symbolically sold to an Israeli Arab, therefore a non-Jew, who resells them at the end of Passover, to Israel.

To respect tradition in hospitals or not? This is the issue that has divided Israeli society for years. At home, everyone is free to do what they want. But in hospitals, religious and laity are forced to live together.

The former explain: we must respect our faith and not bring bread. The latter retort: we must respect our freedom, we eat what we want.

From directive to law

In the past, the Israeli rabbinate had filed petitions to ban bringing bread to the hospital during Passover. The Israeli Supreme Court ruled at the time: "There is no discussion, bread is allowed in hospitals." This had provoked the indignation of the religious.

The clerics, who are now in power, take their revenge. It is no longer a simple directive that they are enunciating, but a proper law, passed in Parliament. In detail, this new text plans to leave room for manoeuvre to hospital directors. They are the ones who must "after taking into account the rights and needs of patients and employees", decide on the level of restrictions. Total or partial ban on bringing bread to the hospital. The issue is also whether or not to be able to search people at the entrance.

In hospitals, patients and caregivers of different religions

Israel Hofsheet, an organization that defends religious freedom, denounces a destructive and coercive law. Because there are not only Jews in Israeli hospitals. In all health facilities, patients such as doctors and nurses are also Israeli Arabs or Palestinians, Muslims or Christians.

What can we say to a Muslim doctor, who is currently doing Ramadan, who comes to work and treats Jews and Arabs indiscriminately, and who at the end of the day has to break the fast? "Ramadan Karim", your bread stays outside.

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  • Israel
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