A bill seeking to ground a General Staff order with regard to chametz (leavened produce) on Passover on IDF bases will be brought before the Ministerial Legislative Committee of the Knesset next Sunday.
The bill is being submitted by Likud MK Dr. Shlomo Karhi, and if enacted, will ensure that chametz is fully banned from IDF bases throughout the seven-day holiday, when consumption of chametz is strictly forbidden according to Jewish law; even enjoying the aroma of leavened goods is prohibited.
The bill has the support of Rabbi Aviad Gadot of the Torat Lehima organization, and is also backed by Knesset members from both the opposition and the coalition. Rather than introducing a reform, the bill seeks to ensure the preservation of the status quo as well as the ability of religious and secular soldiers alike to maintain their religious practices. A huge majority of Israelis, including many who define themselves as secular or traditional, refrains from eating chametz during Passover.
Aside from the Likud party, the haredi parties (UTJ and Shas), the Religious Zionism party, and members of the Blue & White, Yamina, and New Hope parties support the legislation. The status quo was originally established by Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, together with the IDF's first Chief Rabbi, Gen. Shlomo Goren.
According to Karhi and Rabbi Gadot, even Ben Gurion recognized the importance of unity on matters of Jewish tradition. Karhi stresses that soldiers who maintain Jewish tradition are a majority in the IDF, and that if chametz is brought on to IDF bases, these soldiers will be unable to enter the bases themselves. Irreligious and non-Jewish soldiers, by contrast, have many options for consuming chametz off-base, without harming their comrades-in-arms.
"In the only Jewish army in the world, we should preserve Jewish tradition as we always have," MK Karhi told Israel National News. "This is the choice of the people, via their elected representatives. A decision of this significance should not be made by a band of judges with 'progressive' values who are entirely disconnected from regular people as well as totally ignorant of Judaism and think that the prohibition of eating chametz on Pesach is some kind of special diet related to eating matzah.
"They like to talk about lofty values such as the 'people's army,'" Karhi added, "but the truth is that they trample on these very values. On the one hand, they want to force everyone - religious, traditional, and even haredi - to serve in the army, and on the other hand, they want to damage everything that is holy to the Jewish People, and even the very symbol of our religion, the festival of freedom when we first became a nation. I am delighted that there is a cross-party consensus in the Knesset on this issue, and we are going to fix it."
Rabbi Aviad Gadot of the Torat Lehima organization added, "The IDF is the people's army and this is the character of the army as decided by the Jewish People; it should not be decided by pressure groups which are embroiled in conflict. The Passover regulations have existed as an ideal for the last 73 years, representing unity between those who serve, derived from the power of our tradition as it has existed for over 3,300 years. We are grateful for the energetic assistance of Dr. Shlomo Karhi for initiating this legislation which will provide an expression of the support of the IDF for those who serve in it and bolster its status as the sole Jewish army in the world."