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The Problem With Israeli Hospitals Is Violence, Not Bread on Passover

Israel needs a government that will promote real solutions to the country’s actual problems, not a daily dose of culture war provocations ■ The next phase in Netanyahu's plan to kill Israel's media ■ Why the far right is obsessed with burning the Koran ■ Today's best reads on Haaretz

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Israeli doctors protesting violence in hospitals, May.
Israeli doctors protesting violence in hospitals, May.Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

On Monday, Israel’s hospitals went on a one-day strike to protest a series of violent attacks on medical staff in recent weeks. During the strike, only emergency, life-saving treatments were offered. Everything else was put on hold.

The message was clear: The country’s doctors, nurses and other medical staff feel unprotected, left alone to deal with angry patients who are themselves on edge in light of longer wait times and dwindling resources.

One would have thought that the strike would bring the Israeli government to its senses and cause a rush of initiatives to strengthen the health system and provide more security to doctors and nurses.

Well, not this Israeli government. A day after the doctors had their say, a leading member of Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition decided that the most urgent action related to the health system is to prohibit hospital patients from eating bread during Passover.

Moshe Gafni of the ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party proposed legislation, known in Israel as the "chametz law," that would force hospitals to keep chametz – all kinds of foods that are not kosher for Passover – off of their grounds during the week-long holiday.

This would be a reversal of the current reality in Israel: In 2020, the High Court ruled that hospitals lacked the authority to prohibit patients or their visitors from bringing non-kosher food into the building.

Israel is a multicultural society where religious Jews, secular Jews and non-Jewish citizens mostly get along with one another on a day-to-day basis. The vast majority of secular Jews and Arab citizens of Israel would make a sincere effort to avoid eating bread during Passover if they happened to share a hospital room with a religious person.

But the idea of enforcing this kind of policy through legislation is religious coercion, and creates more antagonism between the different sectors of Israeli society.

What Israel needs right now is a government that will promote real solutions to the country’s actual problems, instead of a daily dose of culture war provocations. Unfortunately, the far-right, ultra-religious government Netanyahu has formed seems uninterested.

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