High Court rules hospitals can't issue chametz ban for Passover visitors

Jewish law strictly prohibits the consumption of leavened products, chametz, for the seven days (eight outside of Israel) of the Passover holiday.

Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem, Israel (photo credit: ALMOG / WIKIMEDIA)
Hadassah Ein Karem hospital in Jerusalem, Israel
(photo credit: ALMOG / WIKIMEDIA)
The High Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that hospitals cannot ban patients, visitors and others entering them from bringing in food products that are not kosher for Passover during the Passover holiday.
In 2018 the Adalah and Secular Forum NGOs filed petitions against the ban on bringing chametz – leavened grain-based food that is not kosher for Passover – into hospitals after the Chief Rabbinate and Health Ministry instructed hospital security guards to check visitors for such products and stop them from entering if they had any.
Jewish law strictly prohibits the consumption chametz for the seven days of the Passover holiday (eight outside of Israel), and cooking and serving utensils used with such food must not be used during Passover.  
In Thursday’s ruling, the High Court ruled that the ban on chametz and the orders to search those entering hospitals was taken without authority, and noted that the petition it was accepting related only to bringing food into patients’ rooms and not into hospital cafeterias.
The judges noted that the ban had not been made by the Health Ministry itself but rather by the Chief Rabbinate.
In a majority ruling, judges Uzi Vogelman and Ofer Grosskopf wrote that the ban harms the fundamental rights for the autonomy of the individual and freedom of religion.
They wrote that it also harms the dignity of patients and their right to self-determination and the exercise of their own choices and preferences.
The Chief Rabbinate said in response that the ruling would make it “difficult to guarantee kosher food in hospitals.”
In a statement to the press, the Chief Rabbinate said the court had not sufficiently taken into account “the majority of Israeli citizens who refrain from consuming or coming into contact with chametz on Passover and are in need of hospitalization over Passover, and preferred the position of the minority [of Israel’s citizens], and has therefore caused a mortal blow to the majority of the public.”
It added that “beyond the damage to the Jewish character of the State of Israel,” allowing people to bring chametz into hospital could cause others not to go to hospital in case of medical necessity because of their concern over chametz.
United Torah Judaism MK Uri Maklev said the court “has harmed and will create obstacles for patients who are stringent about chametz over Passover, as are the majority of Israel’s citizens.”
Said Maklev “The justices of the High Court do not respect that hospitals are public places where the feelings of all sectors must be taken into account.”
Transportation Minister and Yamina MK Bezalel Smotrich said the High Court was “continuing to destroy the principles of the Jewish state and rule over it with crazy, progressive principles in an undemocratic manner and without authority.”
The Israel Be Free secularist organization together with the Neemanei Torah Va’Avodah religious-Zionist organization, which appended their names to the petition, said however that the court’s decision proved that the “coercive” decision of the Chief Rabbinate to ban chametz from hospital was not feasible.
They said that hospitals should adopt a proposal they had made, which was referenced by the High Court justices, whereby the general public is asked not to consume food brought from outside the hospital on hospital plates and cutlery but on disposable tableware instead.