Shas loses hametz battle in Knesset, vows to win war

Judge who upheld sale of bread on Pessah is observant.

bread 88 (photo credit: )
bread 88
(photo credit: )
Shas did not succeed in overturning a Jerusalem court decision allowing restaurants to sell hametz [leavened products] during Pessah in time for the holiday, but party officials vowed on Monday to soon change the law permanently. The Knesset held a symbolic discussion about the court's decision on Monday, but Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik did not allow a vote on a bill to change the law during the Knesset's spring recess. At the conclusion of the debate, the MKs voted 46 to 4 to shift the debate over the future of the law to a Knesset committee. "The law will be changed so there will no longer be room for mistakes," Shas chairman Eli Yishai said from the Knesset podium. "The Jewish identity of the state of Israel will be safeguarded." Other top Shas officials said after the Knesset session that Yishai's bill to disallow the sale of hametz during the holiday would pass easily in the cabinet and the Knesset whenever the votes happen. "We didn't lose," a Shas MK said. "I promise you that there will be another Pessah next year and this time, we will be ready. The judge tried to curse us and hurt us, but she ended up praising us and helping us." Knesset speaker Dalia Itzik said she agreed with Shas that the judge had overstepped her bounds, and that it was up to the Knesset - and not the court - to rule on such a matter. National Religious Party chairman Zevulun Orlev compared the court's decision to a hypothetical decision to allow places of entertainment to open the night of Remembrance Day (Yom Hazikaron) or Holocaust Remembrance Day. United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni accused the government of forgetting when Pessah was by not changing the law in time. That accusation may need to be slightly adjusted, in light of the fact that Tamar Bar-Asher-Zaban, the judge who issued the ruling allowing the sale of hametz, is herself an observant woman and sends her children to religious schools. Bar-Asher-Zaban is affiliated with the left-leaning Meimad religious party, though two Meimad leaders, Rabbi Benjamin Segal and Tova Ilan, told The Jerusalem Post they had not heard of the judge. Recently, the Ma'ariv Internet site NRG spoke to Bar-Asher-Zaban's father, Israel Prize winner Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher, who charged that "there are community leaders who respond without reading the verdict, and this is not to their credit. "I heard three people respond to the verdict - [MK] Zevulun Orlev, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Metzger and Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Cohen. I am amazed at Cohen because he is a serious man and on a high level. I am not amazed at the others. I read the entire verdict and it does not address halacha at all, but only the law." Bar-Asher said the Holiday of Matzot Law (Prohibition of Leaven) was "laughable," and that the religious cronies who were responsible for it agreed to a foolish and wretched law. "Instead of declaring that it was forbidden to sell leaven in public places, they wrote that it was forbidden to sell it in public. Since that's the case, they should only come with complaints to themselves." Bar-Asher added that "one could read between the lines" that his daughter was critical of those who had drafted the law. According to attorney Gilad Barnea, who represented one of the defendants in the "Matza Trial," the Terminal 21 24-hour-a-day grocery store, the state made it clear six years ago that the law did not prohibit the sale of leaven, such as bread, pita, buns and other items made of flour, but only the displaying of it. In response to a petition calling for the nullification of the law, the state wrote on July 11, 2002, "The law does not prohibit the consumption of leaven or even its sale. The only matter it addresses is the public display of leaven in public areas or in places which face public areas, such as store front windows." Meanwhile, the haredi MKs received unlikely support from Labor's Yoram Marciano, who called the court's decision "abominable" and accused Meretz MK Zehava Gal-On of wanting to taunt him by eating hametz in front of him during the holiday. "Does the Jewish identity of the state of Israel really depend on a pita?" Gal-On asked. "Jewish identity does not stand on telling people what they can or cannot put on their plates."