The Knesset on Sunday night approved in its first reading the “Chametz Law” proposed by MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism).
The bill was approved by a majority of 51 to 46 and will now be returned to the Knesset Health Committee for discussions to prepare it for its second and third readings.
The law states that a hospital administrator will be entitled to decide, among other things, to prohibit or limit the bringing in of chametz into the medical institution during the holiday of Passover. MK Gafni notes the legislation is necessary because many religious Israeli citizens would refuse treatment by hospitals which allow chametz on their premises during Passover.
Chametz is the term used for any grain product that is leavened, such as bread or cake. Consuming it and even seeing it or possessing it is strictly forbidden during Passover.
The law would restore the status quo which existed before 2018, when security guards had the authority to prevent people from bringing chametz into hospitals during Passover.
In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that the ban on bringing chametz into hospitals over Passover was illegal.
Last year, former coalition chairwoman Idit Silman resigned from the previous government, preventing it from having a 61-seat-majority, over then-Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz's efforts to order hospitals to allow chametz into hospitals during Passover. Silman's resignation and the loss of the coalition's majority ultimately led to the government's collapse and the November 2022 elections in which the current government was elected.
Opposition leader Yair Lapid said in response to Sunday night’s approval and said, "Like thieves in the night, the coalition voted for the Chametz Law. This government is two months old, it has not passed anything that benefits the public, but the most urgent thing tonight: Religious coercion."
The vote was preceded by a stormy debate after Knesset members from the opposition verbally attacked members of the coalition.
Gafni replied to the members of the opposition and said, "A court does not understand anything and does not take anything into consideration. The law is an example of a reality that we seek to integrate together - religious and non-religious, but there are those who do not give us that. The law does not apply to those who are not Jewish."