Mazuz upholds decision to permit hametz

Says leavened products can be sold if they're not facing street; Yishai: This enforces need for law.

bread biz 88 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
bread biz 88 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz's announcement on Tuesday that he would not appeal the Jerusalem Magistrate's Court decision to throw out indictments against merchants who sold hametz last Pessah drew outraged reactions from haredi officials. "The attorney-general's statement strengthens the need for legislation that will turn the judge's decision into a dead letter," Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai (Shas) said after hearing Mazuz's decision. "I say once again that the people of Israel will not change their ways because of a hallucinatory verdict. We will table a bill even if it contradicts the government's position, although I am sure that even in the government, there are those who have woken up and realized that the ruling tears out the roots of Judaism," he said. Mazuz said Judge Tamar Bar-Asher-Zaban's ruling on the Holiday of Matzot Law (Prohibition of Leaven) jibed with the state's position. "The law was not meant to prohibit and does not prohibit the sale or purchase of leaven on Pessah," he said. "The law forbids merchants from displaying leaven products in public for sale or consumption. The purpose of the law, as it emanates from the wording of the law and, clearly, from the explanatory preface to the law, addresses the act of displaying leaven in public in order to prevent injury to public sensibilities and safeguard the Jewish character of Pessah in public areas (similar to the aim of the law that allows local authorities to prohibit entertainment and restaurants on Tisha B'Av)." This interpretation of the law has been the state's consistent position for many years. The attorney-general in 2002 gave directives to the Ministry of Interior on how to enforce the law, and the state made its policy clear on this matter in a response to a petition demanding the abrogation of the law in the same year. According to Mazuz, the state's interpretation of the law is in accordance with its aim and language and "makes it possible to preserve the character of the public space in Israel as a Jewish State on Pessah without causing disproportional harm to the right of the individual to freedom of occupation and freedom from religion." Mazuz added that the prosecuting attorneys of the Jerusalem Municipality who indicted the merchants had been unaware that the state had given directives as to what the law allowed and what it prohibited. Had they been familiar with them, they would not have issued the indictments in the first place.