Yisrael Beytenu video against purity checks in HMOs denounced

Campaign video alleged that religious checks by nurses in HMOs for menstrual blood comes at the expense of vital medical services.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
A campaign video by Yisrael Beytenu MK Alex Kushner in which he bemoaned free religious checks for menstrual blood provided by health funds set off a firestorm of protest from religious and non-religious politicians and public figures alike.
In a video he posted on Twitter, Kushner pointed out that religious women who, in accordance with Jewish law, refrain from having sex with their husbands during their menstrual period and for seven days afterward, can get free checks at the state-funded health funds.
Jewish law strictly forbids marital relations during the days of menstruation and subsequent seven-day period afterward, and a rabbi or a female Jewish law adviser is often consulted to check a blood stain to determine if it is menstrual blood.
Kushner noted that if a religious expert is consulted and they are unsure as to the answer, nurses at some health fund clinics are available to perform a physical examination and determine the result scientifically.
The checks are free and performed by nurses who were trained by the Puah Institute fertility organization, although it is not thought that there is widespread demand for it, with many religious people sufficing with the opinion of the expert they consult.
Kushner claimed that the checks were done “at the expense of the state health budget,” and “at the expense of people who are lying in corridors in hospitals... and at the expense of people waiting for health checks for months,” and people waiting for flu jabs.
“Have you gone nuts? What’s the next stage? Will you send people for a colonoscopy to check if they ate kosher, or stop people in the streets to check if they have a brit milah (religious circumcision)?” Kushner declaimed, saying that “this coercion” must be stopped.
Condemnation of the Yisrael Beytenu MK’s comments came thick and fast, with many noting that women going for such checks were not in any way coerced to do so and that this is not an issue of religious coercion, as many people view, for example, the lack of civil marriage or public transport on Shabbat.
The Puah Institute, which has run the examination program for 18 years and trained approximately 1,000 nurses and midwives to conduct the checks, said that only people with a higher level of health insurance contributions to their health fund can get the examination for a subsidized fee, while those without such insurance have to pay a fee of around NIS 80.
The Puah Institute said therefore the examinations do not come at the expense of the general public.
The Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah religious-Zionist organization decried Kushner’s video, saying that its style was wrong and that the MK was “confused” between the provision of religious services and religious coercion.
“Health funds can subsidize religious purity examinations if there is demand, just as the state funds other religious services,” said NTA.
The organization added that the cost of such examinations is “minimal” and that it is false to claim that such checks take away manpower for providing flu jabs and other health services.
“The fight against religious coercion is appropriate; a fight against religious services less so,” said the NTA in a statement to the press.
Likud supporters in Ariel described the video as antisemitic and accused Yisrael Beytenu of incitement against religious people. United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni said Kushner’s comments reminded him of “dark regimes from the history of the Jewish people,” and New Right co-founder Ayelet Shaked said the video was “awful incitement against the ultra-Orthodox community.”
Yisrael Beytenu said in a statement to the press that the party “has nothing against the ultra-Orthodox community, and said that Yisrael Beytenu believes in “live and let live” and opposes religious coercion.