Analysis: The ruling that flattens the Hametz Law

It'll be interesting to see whether more stores in Jerusalem sell flour products this Pessah.

bread 88 (photo credit: )
bread 88
(photo credit: )
It will be interesting to see whether more stores in Jerusalem will sell bread and other products made of flour this coming Pessah than did last year. This is in the wake of a ruling handed down on Thursday by Judge Tamar Bar-Asher-Tsaban in which she quashed indictments against two businesses in the capital, a pizza parlor and a grocery store, that sold hametz to customers last year. The state indicted the four businesses on criminal charges of violating the 1986 Prohibition on the Display of Hametz Law. The defendants were the first to have been criminally charged under this law. Bar-Asher-Tsaban found that the allegations in the charge were incorrect and therefore had to be dropped. The law states that "No merchant will display a hametz product in public for purchase or consumption. For the purposes of this law, 'a hametz product' includes bread, a bun, a pita or any other product made of flour." According to the judge, while the law defined the term "hametz product," it had not defined the term "in public." Bar-Asher-Tsaban went to the Criminal Code, where she found a distinction in the definitions given for the terms "public place" and "in public." While the four establishments included in the indictments met the criteria for "public places" according to the law, the fact that they sold hametz did not answer the charge of "displaying it in public," according to the legal definition. According to the Criminal Code, "in public" refers to "an act which takes place in a public place and a person can observe... from wherever he is situated." The judge referred to a case in which the court acquitted a man charged with committing an indecent act in public because he had committed the act in the toilet stall of a public bathroom. Although the bathroom was a "public place," the act was not committed "in public." Attorney Gilead Barnea, who represented the Retrobar restaurant, one of the defendants in the case, told The Jerusalem Post that none of the owners of the enterprises that had been indicted had displayed hametz in a window facing the street. Therefore, the display did not fulfill the definition of the law. The hametz was, indeed, displayed in a public place, but could not be observed from every possible location. The case never reached the stage of giving testimony. Ben-Asher-Tsaban threw out the indictments after hearing preliminary arguments by the defense lawyers and the state.