Aug 17, 2022
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The ruling coalition party teeters after a member of Bennett’s own party left after a dispute over Passover kashrut in Israeli hospitals. One rabbi cited an ancient esoteric text which described just such a situation as a harbinger of the Messiah.

Chametz in hospitals

The coalition of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett lost its narrow majority when Idit Silman, the leader of the coalition and a member of the Knesset for Bennett’s Yamina party, announced that she will join the opposition over her objections to a Health Ministry instruction that hospitals not enforce kashrut restrictions during the upcoming Passover holiday.

The difficulties began when Nitzan Horowitz, the acting Minister of Health, issued a letter to hospitals in Israel ordering them to allow patients and visitors to bring chametz (leavened food) into the hospitals during the eight days of Passover. His letter came after 2020 the High Court ruling that hospitals cannot ban patients, visitors, and others from entering with food products that are not kosher for Passover during the holiday. 

Horowitz, who is openly gay, is from the far-left Meretz party and has been accused of objecting to Orthodox Jewish observance. He has initiated legislation that challenged rabbinic supervision of marriages while also calling for same-sex marriages. 

Silman expressed anger over the letter that would allow Israeli hospitals to violate the Passover holiday, saying that she was concerned Israel was losing its Jewish character.

Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett holds a press conference about the Covid-19, at HaKirya base in Tel Aviv, January 11, 2022. Photo by Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90

“When a minister in the government says that chametz should be allowed [in hospitals], he is disrespecting 70 percent of the public,” Idit Silman said during a debate of the Knesset’s Labor, Welfare, and Health Committee.

Torah law forbids the eating of leavened food during Passover and prohibits any leavened products from being found on any Jewish-owned premises. The punishment is karet (being cut off from the Jewish people). 

“People during the Holocaust fasted on Passover rather than eat hametz, and a minister in the government of the State of Israel, unfortunately, intends to introduce hametz,” Silman said. “This is contempt for members of the coalition.”

PM Bennett supported Horowitz in the matter

“The right way to address this is not via legislation,” Bennett said. “People should not be forced into doing things, but rather encouraged to show consideration. We don’t need to be opening people’s bags to check that there’s no chametz inside. And people who are not mitzvah-observant should, of their own free will, be considerate and not bring chametz into public areas.”

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Coalition loses majority

Without Silman in the coalition, the government will lose its majority in the Knesset, falling from 61 seats to 60, potentially enabling the Opposition to veto any coalition bills. In the wake of Silman’s departure from the coalition, it is expected that Bennett, who was elected on a right-wing ticket, will need to rely more heavily on the Arab and extreme left-wing parties. For Silman to topple the government, she must join with two other coalition members to form a new party. Thus far, she is joined only by one – another member of Bennett’s own Yamina Party -Amichai Shikli, who had refused to back the coalition since it was established.

 

Other dissatisfied right-wing lawmakers could take this opportunity to join Silman and Shikli. Some possible candidates are Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, also of the Yamina party, Yamina MK Nir Orbach, who is chairman of the Knesset’s House Committee, and Yamina MK Abir Kara, a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Alternatively, Yamina could declare Silman and Shikli to be dissenting lawmakers and oust them from the party. They would be barred from running in the next election under any party currently part of the Knesset.

Millions of Israelis longing for this moment

The former prime minister and current head of the opposition Benjamin Netanyahu praised Silman and welcomed her ‘back home to the right.

“I was excited to hear the announcement of Member of Knesset Idit Silman and congratulate her on behalf of millions of Israelis who have been longing for this moment,” Netanyahu said in a video post.

“You have proved that you are guided by concern for Israel’s Jewish identity… you will be welcomed back with open arms,” Netanyahu said.

 

MK Keti Shitrit (Likud) compared the announcement to the miracles of the Exodus from Egypt.

“We were redeemed with miracles and will be redeemed through wonders and miracles in the future to come,” Shitrit quoted the Biblical verse referring to the Jewish People’s liberation from slavery in Egypt and the upcoming Passover holiday.

“I congratulate my friend, Idit Silman, on this courageous decision,” she added.

A pass to Heaven

Otzma Yehudit chairman MK Itamar Ben-Gvir (Religious Zionism) tweeted: “[She] got her pass to Heaven in one moment and deserves all the praise she is getting. Her actions have provided renewed hope to the Jewish people on the Right that we will regain power and send the extreme left-wing government that caused so much damage in such a short time to its rightful place. Congratulations, Idit!”

MK Avi Maoz, chairman of the Noam party, echoed this high praise:

“Welcome back, Idit. You attained the World to Come in a single hour. Well done for keeping your focus on the importance of Jewish identity. Together we will return the State of Israel to the Jewish people and bolster its status as a Jewish state.”

Chairman of the religious Shas party Aryeh Deri also praised Silman, saying: “I congratulate MK Silman for helping to salvage the Jewish identity of the State of Israel. We were redeemed in the month of Nissan (the Hebrew month during which Passover falls), and the future redemption will arrive in Nissan as well,” Deri said.

“Government of the mixed multitude”

Rabbi Lazar Brody was pessimistic about the future of the coalition.

“The Israeli government should be working towards re-establishing the Kingdom of David,” Rabbi Brody said. “Instead, they are pushing a liberal agenda and Arab interests. They do not act in the best interests of the Jewish people.”

Rabbi Brody cited a verse from the Book of Esther to indicate what he thought would be the future of Bennett’s government:

“If Mordechai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Yehudiish stock, you will not overcome him; you will fall before him to your ruin.” Esther 6:13

“Here, you have a government that has attacked Torah,” Rabbi Brody said. “The Health Minister cares about transgender more than he cares about sick people. He certainly doesn’t care that chametz will be in the hospitals. The Prime Minister claims to be an observant Torah Jew, but you certainly wouldn’t know it from his actions.”

Rabbi Lazer Brody (courtesy: screenshot)

A sign of the Moshiach

“The Tikkunei Zohar (a kabbalistic text) states that when the Erev Rav (mixed multitude) take over the government in the Land of Israel, it is a sure sign the Moshiach (Messiah) is imminent,” Rabbi Brody said.

Silman has been taking a hard stand on religious issues in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, she criticized a compromise deal made between the government and leaders of an “egalitarian” movement that would challenge the status quo of the Western Wall as an Orthodox Jewish worship site. 

Bennett’s “Unity government” has been challenged on other issues as well. Bennett and Defense Minister Gantz both announced they were planning separate visits to India, raising accusations that they were each trying to upstage the other. Last week, they both canceled their plans. There have also been rising tensions over the construction of Jewish settlements in the Negev, with the left-wing raising strong objections. 

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