The High Court of Justice on Sunday rejected the Chief Rabbinate’s request to ban visitors from bringing food products that are not kosher for Passover (chametz) into hospitals during the holiday, a ruling that has broken a longstanding status quo and angered ultra-Orthodox lawmakers.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who is head of the Shas party, said the ruling would be amended through legislation to bypass the court and will ensure hospitals uphold the rights of patients keeping kosher.
"It is unacceptable that hospitals in the Jewish state are forced to accept chametz on their grounds," Deri said.
"Immediately after the [March] election, Shas will demand that the Knesset advance the Patient Rights Bill, which seeks to maintain the status quo and authorize hospital administrators do so."
United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni blasted the ruling and vowed to curtail the judges' powers through legislation.
"The insolent High Court judges are taking advantage of the period between Knesset terms… and disregard Jews who keep kosher and who are hospitalized during Passover. We will demand it be overruled to stop this and put a check on their unlimited power."
Minister of Religious Affairs Yaakov Avitan, also of Shas, called the ruling "outrageous" and offensive to the Israeli public while also trampling the status quo.
"The High Court arbitrarily decided to reject the Chief Rabbinate's request to hold a hearing on this critical issue, a request which even the attorney general has joined," Avitan said.
"Now there's no way to ensure that tens of thousands of Israelis who keep kosher on Passover will do so on the holiday."
He accused the High Court of "tearing apart the last seams of the Jewish identity and the unity of the people" and called on judges to "respect the will of the majority in Israel and hold a hearing on the issue."
Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg, who is also one of the petitioners, welcomed the court's ruling and said that "the state has no place putting its hands on people's plates."
The head of the secularist Be Free Israel movement, Uri Keidar, thanked the court for "ending the despicable spectacle of the humiliating ceremony in which security guards are forced to rummage through Israelis' bags when they arrive at the hospitals on Passover."
"The rabbinate has spectacularly proven once again that it has lost touch with the reality in Israel by dragging the legal process for years without offering a single normal solution," Keidar said.
"Hospital visitors will continue to treat each other with mutual respect, and the rabbinate would do well to do some introspection and not try to force extreme restrictions on people facing situations that are complex enough as it is."