The Chametz Blitz
A new weapon in the religious-secular battle
As you might know, there’s a teeny-tiny bit of tension in Israel these past few months. There are millions of people who despise Bibi and his enablers for dragging the country through five elections in five years (without Bibi, the Likud could have easily formed a broad coalition), amongst other things. And many of these people have a particular antipathy to Bibi’s reliably supportive partners: the charedi parties.
In part, this is a longstanding resentment of a population that does not carry its share of military service or economic productivity and demands financial support from the rest of the country. But there are also more recent demands by charedi MKs that have increased the resentment towards them. These include turning various mixed beaches into separate beaches, having the rest of the country pay for Shabbos electricity stringencies, preventing public transportation on Shabbos, having the rest of the country subsidize transportation for charedim, fining or imprisoning women who dress immodestly or read from the Torah at the Kotel, etc.
Another such charedi imposition on non-charedim is the Chametz Law, which was just passed. In 2018, the charedi-controlled rabbinate and Health Ministry started instructing guards at hospital entrances to check the bags of visitors for chametz. After an appeal by a secular group together with the Neemanei Torah Va’Avodah religious-Zionist organization, the High Court ruled that such a thing contravened the rights of secular individuals as well as harming the rights of patients to choose their own diet. Instead, hospitals were to ask visitors to consume outside food on disposable tableware rather than using hospital tableware.
Naturally, the charedim (along with the rightmost part of the religious Zionist community) were furious. And so the current charedi-controlled government just passed a law allowing hospital directors to ban and enforce a prohibition on chametz being brought into their hospitals.
Now, I’m not going to get into discussing whether charedim are entitled to impose such a ban. Instead, I want to discuss something else: What are the likely repercussions?
I saw someone write last week that “there will be truckloads of chametz being brought into hospitals this Pesach.” And they are correct. It will be freely brought into hospitals that don’t exercise the right to ban it and smuggled into hospitals that do exercise the right. A group of secular activists just announced that they will be recruiting thousands of people to bring chametz into hospitals. And the activists are urging people to take photos and upload them to social media. A separate initiative will distribute pizza outside hospitals. It will probably be the most prominent desecration of the laws of Pesach in the history of the country.
Is anyone surprised? If you constantly try to impose your way of life onto other people, and show no regard for their feelings, isn’t it obvious that they will try to push back?
Now it could well be that the charedi MKs don’t actually care about secular people bringing chametz into secular hospitals such as Tel HaShomer. In general they don’t really care about whether the rest of the country desecrates the Torah as long as it doesn’t interfere with them. But there will undoubtedly also be secular activists who will bring chametz into Shaarei Tzedek and other hospitals with religious patients. Whatever halachic concerns existed are going to be trampled on like never before.
It could still be that the charedim feel that his halachic desecration is worth it in order to take a strong public stand about religion. But I wonder if such a calculation is even being made, let alone whether it is valid.
There’s also a larger picture here. The charedi community often complains about anti-religious (and anti-charedi) hostility from the wider population. Yet they exhibit a complete lack of concern for how they provoke such hostility. And is a war between religious and secular going to help anyone? It certainly won’t help the cause of Torah, and nor will it help the charedi community.
People would do well to remember the words of the Sages: “Who is wise? He that foresees the consequences.”
(Note - in a previous post, I asked people not to troll the comments section, i.e. not to swamp it with inflammatory comments. The result was a greater amount of trolling than ever. So in future I am going to start deleting comments and/or banning people.)
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