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      MKs Ask for Special Hametz Knesset Session

      Hoping to plug up the holes in the no-Hametz law, MKs ask for an emergency Knesset session - though it might be too late for this year.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 4/8/2008, 3:14 PM

      Hoping to pass legislation to plug up the holes in the no-Hametz law, MKs ask for an emergency Knesset session - though there might not be enough time to solve the problem for this year.

      The Knesset Members from several parties - United Torah Judaism, Shas, National Union/National Religious Party and the Likud - have asked Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to declare a special session during the already-begun Passover recess.  This, in light of a Jerusalem court ruling last week that the sale of chametz in a store or restaurant during Passover does not constitute a "public" sale, and is therefore not prohibited by the current law banning the sale of chametz in public. 

      Chametz - leavened bread, or flour products baked with yeast - is Biblically prohibited to be eaten, or even owned, by Jews during the week-long holiday of Passover.  It is considered to be one of the strongest prohibitions in the Torah.  The holiday begins this year on April 20, and ends on April 26 (27, outside of Israel).

      The modern-day law known as the Chametz Law was passed by the Knesset in 1986, and stipulates that a "business proprietor may not publicly display chametz products for sale or consumption."  The law does not apply in a city or neighborhood populated mostly by non-Jews.

      Keeping Israel Jewish
      Though the law has been criticized for being an example of "religious coercion," and has often not been enforced, its proponents explain that it is an important expression of Israel's uniqueness as a Jewish State.  The latter now fear that there will be little or no public manifestation of the holiday, which commemorates the birth of the Jewish People as a nation.

      How to Change a Law
      Two options for changing the law have been suggested.  One is an amendment of the current law by MK Avraham Ravitz, removing the word "public" from the law.  This would forbid all sale of chametz on Passover. His status as an opposition party MK, however, does not bode well for quick processing of his proposal.

      A second option is that Minister of Trade Eli Yishai, of the coalition's Shas Party, will submit a similar amendment in the name of the government. 

      Generally, proposed legislation must wait 45 days before being brought for its first Knesset reading.  The Knesset Committee can agree to waive this requirement, however, if a request is submitted.  In addition, special recess sessions are held only if 25 MKs request one - or if the bill in question is government-sponsored, which Yishai's is expected to be.

      Shas spokesman Ro'i Lachmanovitch informed Arutz-7 that the government is expected to approve the legislation at its upcoming meeting this Sunday. He confirmed that Speaker Itzik had not yet set a date for the special Knesset session.

      The proposal by Minister Yishai, therefore, has better - but not great - chances of passing before Passover begins.